Login/Logout

*
*  

"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Nuclear Nonproliferation

U.S. Negative Security Assurances at a Glance

March 2018

Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director; (202) 463-8270 x107; Kelsey Davenport, Director of Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102; Kingston ReifDirector of Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review repeats exisiting U.S. negative security assurances by stating that Washington "will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations." Previously, in the April 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the United States declared that it would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that are members in good standing of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Before 2010 successive administrations had maintained a policy of "strategic ambiguity" by refusing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in response to biological or chemical weapons attacks, even from NPT member states.

Background

The 2018 NPR upholds but adds qualifications to earlier versions of U.S. "negative security assurances" first enunciated in 1978 and reaffirmed in 1995. Most notably, the report stipulates that the United States reserves the right to amend its negative assurance if warranted by "the evolution and proliferation of non-nuclear strategic attack technologies," including cyber capabilites.

The 1995 formulation left open the option to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that were “in association or alliance with” a nuclear-weapon state—generally understood to be a reference to the Warsaw Pact allies of the Soviet Union. The United States also specified at that time that non-nuclear-weapon states had to be in compliance with the NPT to be eligible for this assurance.

In 1995, UN Security Council Resolution 984 recognized the U.S. assurances and similar ones from Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom. These coordinated assurances were a key part of the multilateral decision to indefinitely extend the NPT that year.

Outside of the NPT context, however, senior U.S. officials maintained "strategic ambiguity" about Washington’s military options in key situations.  For example, just before the U.S. war with Iraq in 1991, former Secretary of State James Baker told Tariq Aziz, Iraq's foreign minister, that if "you use chemical or biological weapons against U.S. forces, the American people will demand vengeance and we have the means to exact it." Baker said that "it is entirely possible and even likely, in my opinion, that Iraq did not use its chemical weapons against our forces because of that warning. Of course, that warning was broad enough to include the use of all types of weapons that American possessed."

Similarly, in April 1996, in reference to a suspected Libyan chemical weapons facility at Tarhunah, then-Secretary of Defense William Perry said that "if some nation were to attack the United States with chemical weapons, then they would have to fear the consequences of a response from any weapon in our inventory."  Perry noted that "in every situation that I have seen so far, nuclear weapons would not be required for response."

The 2001 NPR report maintained the possibility that U.S. nuclear forces could be used against non-nuclear nations. In addition to nuclear-armed China, the 2001 NPR cited five states that at the time did not have nuclear weapons (Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Syria) as driving "requirements for nuclear strike capabilities."  All five states were at the time suspected of nuclear weapons ambitions and were believed to have biological and/or chemical weapons or programs.  In February 2002, then-State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said it was U.S. policy that "[i]f a weapon of mass destruction is used against the United States or its allies, we will not rule out any specific type of military response."

In September 2002, the classified National Security Presidential Directive 17 was signed, which stated that "the United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force—including potentially nuclear weapons — to the use of WMD against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies." 

Following the release of the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review report, President Barack Obama announced on April 6, that the United States was updating its negative security assurance policy to emphasize “the importance of nations meeting their NPT and nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained in an interview broadcast April 11, 2010 on CBS’s Face the Nation, negative security assurances are “not a new thing. The new part of this is saying that we would not use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state that attacked us with chemical and biological weapons.”

As for chemical weapons, Gates said April 11 that “[T]ry as we might, we could not find a credible scenario where a chemical weapon could have the kind of consequences that would warrant a nuclear response.”  On biological weapons, the 2010 NPR hedges: “Given the catastrophic potential of biological weapons and the rapid pace of bio-technology development, the United States reserves the right to make any adjustment in the assurance that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of the biological weapons threat and U.S. capacities to counter that threat.”

For both scenarios, Gates said April 6 that “[i]f any state eligible for this assurance were to use chemical or biological weapons against the United States or its allies or partners, it would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response.” And for states that have nuclear weapons or are not in compliance with the NPT all options are on the table—including the use of nuclear weapons first or in response to a non-nuclear attack.

Under the NPT, the five recognized nuclear-weapon states are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Three other states, India, Pakistan, and Israel, possess nuclear weapons but never joined the NPT. 

2018 NPR

Although the 2018 NPR report makes clear that the primary role of U.S. nuclear weapons is to “deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners,” the weapons serve other missions, too, including deterring non-nuclear attacks, assuring U.S. allies and partners, achieving U.S. objectives if deterrence fails, and hedging against future uncertainty. This falls short of a declaration that the “sole purpose” of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack and represents a significant break with past U.S. efforts to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons in the world.

The 2018 NPR report does state that the first use of nuclear weapons will only be considered under “extreme circumstances,” but it defines these circumstances more broadly than previous reports, including in the definition “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks” against “U.S., allied or partner civilian population or infrastructure, and attacks on U.S. or allied nuclear forces, their command and control, or warning and attack assessment capabilities.” Although the policy does not explicitly define “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks,” Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood clarified at the February 2 press conference following the report’s release that this could include chemical and biological attacks, large-scale conventional aggression, and cyberattacks. The scenarios provided for in the 2018 NPR report are much broader than the “narrow range of contingencies” laid out in the 2010 report.

The document also breaks from the 2010 report on the role of non-nuclear forces. Whereas the 2010 report called for enhanced non-nuclear capability to maintain deterrence, the 2018 document states that “non-nuclear capabilities can complement but not replace U.S. nuclear capabilities” for the purpose of deterrence. Moreover, if deterrence fails, the 2018 report also declares that Washington may use nuclear weapons to end a conflict on the “best achievable terms for the United States.”

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

Fact Sheet Categories:

Timeline of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)

February 2018

Contact: Daryl KimballExecutive Director, (202) 463-7280 x107; Kingston ReifDirector for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-7280 x104

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which entered into force in March 1970, seeks to inhibit the spread of nuclear weapons. Its 190 states-parties are classified in two categories: nuclear-weapon states (NWS), consisting of the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom, and non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS). Under the treaty, all states-parties commit to pursue general and complete disarmament, and the NNWS agree to forgo developing or acquiring nuclear weapons. These are the first two “pillars” of the treaty. The third pillar ensures that states-parties can access and develop nuclear technology for peaceful applications.
 
With its near-universal membership, the NPT has the widest adherence of any arms control agreement, with only South Sudan, India, Israel, and Pakistan remaining outside the treaty. The treaty, which was indefinitely extended in 1995, calls for a review conference every five years to assess progress on achieving the treaty's key objectives and provide opportunities to discuss new measures to strengthen the treaty. For more information on the NPT, see The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at a Glance.
 
The following timeline provides a brief history of events related to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty from the 1950s to the present.

 


Skip to:  1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s

1950s

Franz Matsch, Austria’s permanent representative to the UN and Paul Robert Jolles, executive secretary of the 18-nation Preparatory Commission for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), sign a conference agreement to secure facilities for the first General Conference of the IAEA on July 24, 1957 in Vienna. (UN Photo/MB)July 29, 1957: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) comes into existence with the mission of promoting and overseeing the peaceful use of nuclear technology. U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower had called for the creation of such an agency in his December 1953 “Atoms for Peace” proposal. 

October 17, 1958: Ireland proposes the first resolution at the United Nations to prohibit the “further dissemination of nuclear weapons.” 

Back to Top

1960s

December 4, 1961: The UN General Assembly unanimously approves Resolution 1665, which is based on the earlier Irish draft resolution and calls for negotiations to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional states. The resolution says that countries already having nuclear weapons would “undertake to refrain from relinquishing control” of them to others and would refrain “from transmitting information for their manufacture to States not possessing” them. Countries without nuclear weapons would agree not to receive or manufacture them. These ideas formed the basis of the NPT.

President John Kennedy addresses the press in March 1963 in Washington, D.C. (National Archive/Newsmakers)March 21, 1963: In a press conference, U.S. President John F. Kennedy warns, “I see the possibility in the 1970s of the president of the United States having to face a world in which 15 or 20 or 25 nations may have [nuclear] weapons. I regard that as the greatest possible danger and hazard.” Kennedy made this statement a month after a secret Department of Defense memorandum assessed that eight countries—Canada, China, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and West Germany—would likely have the ability to produce nuclear weapons within 10 years. The study also calculated that, beyond 10 years, the future costs of nuclear weapons programs would diminish and that several more states would likely be able to pursue nuclear weapons, especially if unrestricted testing continued. The risks of such proliferation, which the existing nuclear powers sought to curtail or prevent, largely served as an impetus for drafting the NPT. Today, the IAEA assesses that nearly 30 states are capable of developing nuclear weapons, but only 9 states are known to possess them.

August 17, 1965: The United States submits to the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee its first draft proposal to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union submits its first draft a month later.

February 14, 1967: The Treaty of Tlatelolco, establishing Latin America and the Caribbean as a nuclear-weapon-free zone, is opened for signature. It is the first of five such regional zones to be negotiated. The other zones cover Africa, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, and Central Asia. For more information, see Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zones at a Glance.

August 24, 1967: The United States and Soviet Union separately introduce identical draft treaties to the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

Circa 1967: Israel secretly acquires the capability to build a nuclear explosive device. 

June 12, 1968: The UN General Assembly adopts Resolution 2373, endorsing the draft text of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The vote was 95 to 4 with 21 abstentions. The four no votes were Albania, Cuba, Tanzania, and Zambia.

July 1, 1968: The NPT is opened for signature and signed by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Article IX of the treaty established that entry into force would require the treaty’s ratification by those three countries (the treaty’s depositories) and 40 additional states. China and France, the other two recognized nuclear-weapon states under the treaty, do not sign it. China argued the treaty was discriminatory and refused to sign or adhere to it. France, on the other hand, indicated that it would not sign the treaty but “would behave in the future in this field exactly as the States adhering to the Treaty.” Both states acceded to the treaty in 1992.

Back to Top

1970s

March 5, 1970: The NPT enters into force with 46 states-parties.

A crater marks the site of India’s May 18, 1974 underground nuclear test at Pokhran in the desert state of Rajasthan. (Punjab Photo/AFP/Getty Images)

September 3, 1974: The IAEA publishes the “trigger list” developed by the Zangger Committee, identifying nuclear items that require IAEA safeguards as a condition of export.

May 30, 1975: The 91 states-parties to the NPT hold the treaty’s first review conference. The treaty members decide to hold such conferences to review the implementation of the treaty every five years.

January 11, 1978: States participating in the voluntary Nuclear Suppliers Group provide the IAEA with a common set of guidelines they will follow in making nuclear exports. The IAEA publishes the guidelines the next month. For more information, see The Nuclear Suppliers Group at a Glance

Back to Top

1980s

Kazakhstani citizens gather to demand a nuclear test ban at the Soviet nuclear test site near Semipalatinsk in August 1989. (UN Photo/MB)The decade was dominated by the Cold War superpower competition of the United States and the Soviet Union. Much of the world held its collective breath during the first years of the decade as tensions and the nuclear arms race heated up between the two rivals, leading to popular anti-nuclear protests worldwide and the nuclear freeze movement in the United States. The international community exhaled a bit in the second half of the decade as the United States and the Soviet Union earnestly sat down at the arms negotiating table and for the first time eliminated an entire category of nuclear weapons through the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The two countries also proceeded to negotiate cuts to their strategic nuclear forces, which ultimately would be realized in the landmark 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Although the U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms race was center stage, efforts to advance and constrain the nuclear weapons ambitions and programs of other countries played out in the wings, sometimes as part of the superpower drama. For instance, the United States pushed nonproliferation concerns aside when ignoring Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program because of that country’s role in fighting Soviet forces inside Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Iraq, North Korea, and South Africa advanced their nuclear weapons efforts in relative secrecy. In this decade, Iran began to secretly acquire uranium-enrichment-related technology from Pakistani suppliers. Taiwan’s covert nuclear weapons program, however, was squelched by U.S. pressure. Other nonproliferation gains included a joint declaration by Argentina and Brazil to pursue nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes, alleviating fears of a nuclear arms race between the two, and the conclusion of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the South Pacific. Moreover, the NPT added 30 new states-parties during the decade, including North Korea.

September 7, 1980: The second NPT review conference adopts its final document.

September 25, 1985: The third NPT review conference adopts its final document

Back to Top

1990s

The UN Security Council votes on Resolution 687 mandating intrusive inspections in Iraq on April 3, 1991 in New York. (UN Photo/Saw Lwin)

October 4, 1990: The fourth NPT review conference adopts its final document.

April 3, 1991: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 687 requiring Iraq to eliminate its secret nuclear weapons program, which was revealed after the Iraqi defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Iraq had illegally pursued a nuclear weapons program despite being an NPT state-party. Following the adoption of Resolution 687, the IAEA gained a greater understanding of Iraq’s clandestine program and dismantled and sealed its remnants. The realization that Iraq pursued such a program undetected in spite of agency inspections served as a key impetus to strengthen IAEA safeguards. That effort eventually produced the Model Additional Protocol. The IAEA maintained a presence in Iraq until its inspectors were forced to withdraw in late 1998 on the eve of U.S. and British military strikes against Iraq. 

July 10, 1991: South Africa accedes to the NPT. Two years later, the South African government admits that it had covertly built six completed nuclear devices and then dismantled them before joining the accord. The move to get rid of the weapons was seen as preparation for the coming end of apartheid rule.

March 9, 1992: China accedes to the NPT.

May 23, 1992: Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine sign the Lisbon Protocol committing to join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states. All three had nuclear weapons when they were Soviet republics. On December 5, 1994, Ukraine becomes the last of the three to accede to the NPT. For more information, see The Lisbon Protocol at a Glance.

August 3, 1992: France, the last of the five recognized nuclear-weapon states, accedes to the NPT.

March 12, 1993: North Korea announces its intention to withdraw from the NPT, but it suspends that withdrawal on June 11, 1993.

April 1, 1993: The IAEA declares North Korea in noncompliance with its safeguards obligations and refers Pyongyang to the UN Security Council.

April 11, 1995: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 984 acknowledging the unilateral pledges by the five nuclear-weapon states not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to the NPT. The move is seen as a way to win greater support for the possible indefinite extension of the treaty.

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty states-parties vote to extend the treaty indefinitely May 11, 1995 at  UN Headquarters in New York. (Jon Levy/AFP/Getty Images)May 11, 1995: At the fifth NPT review conference, states-parties agree to the treaty’s indefinite extension. Article X of the NPT called for a conference of states-parties to be held 25 years after the treaty’s entry into force in order to determine whether the treaty would remain in force indefinitely or for other additional periods of time. This conference was held in 1995 and began with considerable uncertainty regarding the nature of any extension. Non-nuclear-weapon states, particularly developing countries belonging to the Nonaligned Movement, expressed disappointment with the lack of progress toward nuclear disarmament and feared that a decision to extend the treaty indefinitely would by default enable the nuclear-armed states to hold on to their nuclear arsenals in perpetuity and avoid any accountability in eliminating them. At the conference, Indonesia and South Africa proposed tying the treaty’s indefinite extension to a decision to strengthen the treaty review process. They also linked it to the establishment of a set of principles and objectives on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament to hold NPT states-parties, particularly the nuclear-weapon states, accountable to their commitments. These principles and objectives include completion of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and negotiations on the cutoff of fissile material production for weapons purposes. The conference also adopted a resolution calling for establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. This resolution was intended to win support for the indefinite NPT extension from Arab states, which objected to Israel’s status outside the NPT and its assumed possession of nuclear weapons. Although only a majority of states-parties was required to approve the indefinite extension, the agreed package of decisions obtained enough support that such a vote was not required.

Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto signs the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty September 24, 1996 at UN Headquarters in New York. (Tim Clary/AFP/Getty Images)September 24, 1996: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty outlawing nuclear explosions is opened for signature. The treaty has yet to enter into force because not all of the requisite states—including China, India, Pakistan, and the United States—have ratified it. For more information, see The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty at a Glance.

May 15, 1997: The IAEA adopts the Model Additional Protocol, a voluntary safeguards agreement for a state to give the agency greater powers to verify that illegal nuclear weapons-related activities are not taking place inside that state. The protocol was developed in response to Iraq’s and North Korea’s illicit actions under the treaty. For more information, see the 1997 Additional Protocol at a Glance. 

Back to Top

2000s

May 22, 2000: The NPT states-parties agree to a final document at the sixth review conference that outlines the so-called 13 steps for progress toward nuclear disarmament, including an “unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”

January 10, 2003: North Korea announces its withdrawal from the NPT. North Korea initially announced its intent to withdraw from the NPT a decade earlier following suspicions of NPT violations. After holding talks with the United States, North Korea suspended that withdrawal in June 1993, just a day before it would have come into effect. It further agreed to give up its nuclear weapons program under a 1994 agreement with the United States. Following the collapse of that agreement in 2002, North Korea declared January 10, 2003, that, with only one day remaining of its previous three-month notification requirement to withdraw from the NPT, its withdrawal would come into effect a day later. Although the legality of North Korea’s process of withdrawal remains in question, subsequent calls by the UN and the IAEA for Pyongyang to return to the NPT demonstrate a recognition that it is currently outside the treaty. Article X of the NPT recognizes the right of states to withdraw from the treaty if that party’s “supreme interests” are jeopardized by “extraordinary events.” States are required to give notice three months in advance before such a withdrawal would take effect. In light of North Korea’s withdrawal and subsequent development of nuclear weapons, the 2005 NPT review conference considered ways to ensure that states that withdraw from the treaty are not able to use technologies and materials obtained while an NPT state-party to pursue nuclear weapons. 

June 6, 2003: The IAEA issues a report detailing Iranian clandestine nuclear activities that Tehran failed to report to the agency, in violation of its safeguards agreement.

December 19, 2003: Libya announces that it will dismantle its WMD programs, including a secret nuclear weapons program, and agrees to IAEA inspections and adherence to an additional protocol. 

May 2, 2005: The seventh NPT review conference opens at the United Nations in New York.

September 19, 2005: North Korea commits to abandoning its nuclear weapons and programs and returning to the NPT and to IAEA safeguards in an agreement following the six-party talks on North Korean denuclearization.

September 24, 2005: The IAEA finds Iran in noncompliance with its safeguards obligations after nearly two years of inspections into its undeclared nuclear activities. The agency in February 2006 refers Iran to the UN Security Council, which adopts three sanctions resolutions against Iran over the next two years. IAEA investigations continue into Iran’s past and current nuclear activities.

During a May 25 press briefing in Seoul, a South Korean meteorological official displays charts that demonstrate the sudden spike in seismic activity at the time of North Korea’s nuclear test earlier that day. (Park Yeong-Dae/AFP/Getty Images)

September 6, 2008: The Nuclear Suppliers Group agrees to permit trade in nuclear material and technology with India, despite that country’s status as a nonparty to the NPT and de facto nuclear-weapon state. 

Back to Top

2010s

May 3-28, 2010: The eighth NPT review conference takes place. For more information, see the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference fact sheet.

February 5, 2011: The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) enters into force. The United States and Russia agree to reduce strategic and offensive arms. The treaty’s central limits must be reached by February 5, 2018. New START reduces the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs that each state can have to 1,550 each. For more information, see New START at a Glance.

June 2011: The United Kingdom announces voluntary planned reductions in its deployed nuclear forces set to be accomplished by early 2015. When complete, the United Kingdom will have no more than 120 deployed strategic warheads, with 60 warheads in reserve to support the maintenance and management of the operational force. All excess warheads will be dismantled by the mid-2020s.

November 23, 2012: The conveners (Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the United Nations) of a conference to establish a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East announce that the conference will be postponed because not all states in the region agree on an agenda for the conference.

March 4-5, 2013: Norway hosts the first Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, with participation from 127 states. The conference focused on scientific findings on the impact of nuclear weapons use on humans, the environment, and global climate. The five recognized nuclear-weapon states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) all decide not to attend.

February 13-14, 2013: A second conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons is held in Mexico, with 146 states in attendance. The conference called for greater efforts on disarmament and an initiative to reach new international standards and norms to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons. The nuclear-weapon states do not participate in the conference. 

May 6, 2014: All five nuclear-weapon states sign the protocol for the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zone (CANFWZ) treaty. The CANFWZ applies to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

November 17, 2014: France ratifies the CANFWZ.

December 8-9, 2014: A third conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons is held in Vienna. The United States and the United Kingdom decide to attend, and China choses to send an observer. Over 150 countries and several international and civil society organizations participate. Over 60 countries sign a pledge to cooperate to “stigmatize, prohibit, and eliminate” nuclear weapons.

January 30, 2015: The United Kingdom ratifies the CANFWZ.

April 27 - May 22, 2015: The ninth review conference for the NPT is held at the United Nations in New York but ends May 22 without agreement on a final conference document. Key states parties could not bridge differences on the process for convening a conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, as well as disagreements between the nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapons states over the pace of implementation of Article VI of the treaty and action steps agreed to at the 2010 conference. After nearly four weeks of sometimes acrimonious negotiations, the conference president, Ambassador Taous Ferroukhi of Algeria, presented a consolidated draft final document for adoption by consensus on the final day of the meeting. But the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada announced in the final hours that they could not support the formula presented in the document for pursuing a conference to discuss the Middle East zone. 

With the five nuclear-weapon states either unable or unwilling to make further disarmament commitments, a group of 107 states endorsed a statement, known as the “Humanitarian Pledge,” which calls on states "to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons."

July 14, 2015: Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) conclude the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to curtail Iran's sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities under strengthened safegaurds. For more information, see the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action at a Glance.

October 27, 2016: UN General Assembly First Committee adopts a resolution for negotiating a conference on a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons by a vote of 123-38 with 16 abstentions. 

July 7, 2017: The second and final round of negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons concludes with states voting 122-1-1 to adopt the treaty.

September 20, 2017: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is opened for signature. For more information, see the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at a Glance.

February 5, 2018: Central limits on strategic nuclear forces imposed by New START take effect. Both Russia and the United States meet the limits

May 8, 2018: The United States announces its withdrawal from the JCPOA. The remaining signatories criticize the move and reiterate their support for the agreement. For more information, see the Timeline of Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran.

August 2, 2019: The United States withdraws from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Back to Top

2020s

March 2020: The global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic forces a postponement of the 10th review conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), possibly until early 2021. The conference was originally scheduled to be held at UN headquarters in New York City from April 27 until May 22.

Back to Top

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

Chronology of Libya's Disarmament and Relations with the United States

March 2021

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: January 2018

On December 19, 2003, long-time Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi stunned much of the world by renouncing Tripoli’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and welcoming international inspectors to verify that Tripoli would follow through on its commitment.

Following Gaddafi’s announcement, inspectors from the United States, United Kingdom, and international organizations worked to dismantle Libya’s chemical and nuclear weapons programs, as well as its longest-range ballistic missiles. Washington also took steps toward normalizing its bilateral relations with Tripoli, which had essentially been cut off in 1981.

Libya’s decision has since been characterized as a model for other states suspected of developing WMD in noncompliance with their international obligations to follow. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker stated May 2, 2005 during the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference that Libya’s choice “demonstrates that, in a world of strong nonproliferation norms, it is never too late to make the decision to become a fully compliant NPT state,” noting that Tripoli’s decision has been “amply rewarded.”

Tripoli’s disarmament was also a success story for the U.S. intelligence community, which uncovered and halted some of the assistance Libya was being provided by the nuclear smuggling network led by Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan. At  that time, the U.S. intelligence community was being harshly criticized for its failures regarding Iraq’s suspected WMD programs.

The factors that induced Libya to give up its weapons programs are debatable. Many Bush administration officials have emphasized the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq, as well as the October 2003 interdiction of a ship containing nuclear-related components destined for Libya, as key factors in Tripoli’s decision. But outside experts argue that years of sanctions and diplomatic efforts were more important.

Libya erupted into civil war in February 2011, beginning as a clash between peaceful political protestors and the government. The situation degenerated into armed conflict between loyalist Gaddafi forces and rebel militias and culminated with a toppled regime and an elected General National Congress in August 2012. Disarmament efforts were halted in February 2011 due to the conflict but no chemical or biological weapons were used by either side. U.S. intelligence sources said that the stockpiles of these weapons remain secure. Libya today is again on the path to destroying its weapons of mass destruction capabilities and stockpiles.

The following chronology summarizes key events in the U.S.-Libyan relationship, as well as weapons inspection and dismantlement activities in Libya since its 2003 pledge.

 


Skip to: 1970s, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018.

 

1970s

May 26, 1975: Codifying a commitment to forswear nuclear weapons, Libya ratifies the NPT seven years after it was first signed by the regime of King Idris al-Sanusi.

December 2, 1979: A mob attacks and sets fire to the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. Embassy officials are subsequently withdrawn and the embassy shut down.

December 29, 1979: The U.S. government places Libya on a newly created list of state sponsors of terrorism. Countries on the list are subject to a variety of U.S. sanctions.

1978-1981: Libya purchases more than 2,000 tons of lightly processed uranium from Niger. The Soviet Union completes a 10 megawatt nuclear research reactor at Tajoura.

1980s

July 1980: Libya’s safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) enters into force. Such agreements allow the IAEA to inspect certain nuclear-related facilities within a country to verify that the government is not misusing civilian nuclear programs for illicit military purposes.

Libya subsequently pursues clandestine nuclear activities related to both uranium enrichment and plutonium separation. Both plutonium and highly enriched uranium can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons.

May 6, 1981: The United States closes Libya’s embassy in Washington and expels Libyan diplomats.

August 19, 1981: U.S. aircraft shoot down two Libyan combat jets that fired on them over the Mediterranean Sea.

January 19, 1982: Libya ratifies the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). The BWC prohibits states-parties from developing, producing, and stockpiling offensive biological agents.

January 7, 1986: President Ronald Reagan issues an executive order imposing additional economic sanctions against Libya in response to Tripoli’s continued support for international terrorism, including two December 1985 attacks at airports in Rome and Vienna. The order bans most Libyan imports and all U.S. exports to Libya, as well as commercial contracts and travel to the country. Libyan assets in the United States are also frozen. Reagan authorizes the sanctions under the authority of several U.S. laws, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

April 15, 1986: U.S. forces launch aerial bombing strikes against Libya in response to Tripoli’s involvement in an April 5 terrorist attack that killed two American servicemen at a Berlin disco.

December 21, 1988: Pan Am Flight 103 en route from London to New York explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 people on board and 11 bystanders on the ground. In November 1991, investigators in the United States and United Kingdom name two Libyan officials as prime suspects in the bombing.

September 19, 1989: The French airliner UTA Flight 772 bound for Paris explodes, killing all 171 people on board. Investigating authorities find evidence of terrorism and indict two Libyan suspects in 1991.

1992

January 21, 1992: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 731 demanding that Libya surrender the suspects in the Pam Am bombing, cooperate with the Pan Am and UTA investigations, and pay compensation to the victims’ families.

March 31, 1992: The Security Council adopts Resolution 748 imposing sanctions on Libya, including an arms embargo and air travel restrictions.

1993

November 11, 1993: The Security Council adopts Resolution 883 which tightens sanctions on Libya. The resolution includes a limited freeze of Libyan assets as well as a ban on exports of oil equipment to Libya.

1995

July 1995: According to the IAEA, Libya makes a “strategic decision to reinvigorate its nuclear activities, including gas centrifuge uranium enrichment.”

Gas centrifuges can enrich uranium for use in nuclear reactors as well as for fissile material in nuclear weapons.

1996

April 1996: Libya joins the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone by signing the Treaty of Pelindaba. The treaty prohibits member states from developing, acquiring, and possessing nuclear weapons, but has not yet entered into force.

August 5, 1996: The Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) becomes law. The act authorizes the president to impose sanctions against foreign companies that invest more than $40 million a year in Libya’s oil industry.

1999

April 5, 1999: Libya hands over two suspects--each reportedly linked to Libyan intelligence--to Dutch authorities for trial in the bombing of Pam Am Flight 103.

Immediately following the handover, as well as France’s acknowledgement that Tripoli had cooperated with French officials investigating the UTA bombing, the Security Council suspends sanctions against Libya originally imposed in 1992.

May 1999: Libyan officials offer to eliminate their chemical weapons programs during secret talks with the United States, according to Martin Indyk, then assistant secretary of state. In a March 10, 2004 Financial Times article, Indyk reveals that U.S. officials insisted Libya reach a settlement with the Pan Am victims’ families, as well as accept responsibility for the bombing, before Washington negotiate with Libya about its chemical weapons.

1999-2000: U.S. intelligence agencies begin to obtain new information that Libya is “reinvigorating its nuclear, missile, and biological [weapons] programs,” according to a March 31, 2005 report from the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. By 2000, “information was uncovered that revealed shipments of centrifuge technology from the [proliferation network run by former Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan] were destined for Libya,” the report says.

Following the suspension of UN sanctions, Libya also begins increasing its efforts to obtain chemical weapons. According to a 2003 CIA Report, Tripoli reestablishes “contacts with sources of expertise, parts, and precursor chemicals abroad, primarily in Western Europe.”

2001

January 31, 2001: Three judges hand down verdicts in the Pan Am trial. One man, Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, is found guilty of 270 counts of murder. The other suspect, Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, is acquitted.

November 19, 2001: Speaking at the BWC Review Conference, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton states that Libya may be violating the treaty by actively seeking to develop or deploy offensive biological weapons. This is the first time the United States has accused noncompliant states by name at a diplomatic conference.

2002

May 6, 2002: Bolton indicates in a speech to the Heritage Foundation that Libya and Syria received dual-use technology that could be used for producing biological weapons through trade with Cuba. Dual-use goods are items having both civilian and military uses.

August 3, 2002: President George W. Bush signs the “ILSA Extension Act of 2001” which extends the provisions of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act for an additional five years and lowers the $40 million investment threshold for the possible imposition of sanctions to $20 million.

2003

February 12, 2003: CIA Director George Tenet, in written testimony to Congress, notes “Libya clearly intends to re-establish its offensive chemical weapons capability.”

Early March 2003: Libyan intelligence officials approach British intelligence officials and offer to enter negotiations regarding the elimination of Libya’s WMD programs. The subsequent negotiations, which include U.S. officials, are kept secret.

Former National Security Council official Flynt Leverett later writes in a January 23, 2004 New York Times article that Washington offers an “explicit quid pro quo” to Tripoli regarding its WMD programs. U.S. officials indicate that the United States will remove its sanctions on Libya if the latter verifiably dismantles these programs, according to Leverett.

The meeting occurs prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq later that month.

April 5, 2003: Bolton says in an interview with Radio Sawa that the invasion of Iraq “sends a message” to Libya, as well as Iran and Syria, “that the cost of their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially quite high.”

September 12, 2003: In a 13-0 vote, the Security Council formally lifts sanctions imposed on Libya. The United States and France abstain. The Security Council’s action comes in response to Libya’s August 15 agreement to compensate the victims of the Pan Am attack, as well as Tripoli’s formal acceptance of responsibility for that bombing.

Libya agreed September 11 to offer additional compensation to the families of the 1989 UTA bombing victims. Libya first agreed in 1999 to pay the families, but agreed to increase the amount after the Pan Am victims were promised more. A final agreement is reached in January 2004.

U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham explains that the United States will not lift sanctions because of “serious concerns about other aspects of Libyan behavior,” including Tripoli’s WMD programs. Cunningham states that “Libya’s continued nuclear infrastructure upgrades raise concerns.” He accuses Tripoli of “actively developing biological and chemical weapons.”

Testifying before the House International Relations Committee four days later, Bolton reiterates his previous threat stating that countries developing WMD “will pay a steep price for their efforts.”

October 4, 2003: German and Italian authorities interdict a ship en route to Libya containing centrifuge components manufactured in Malaysia. Bush later touts the interdiction as a key intelligence success during a February 11, 2004 speech at the National Defense University. Some U.S. officials subsequently assert that the interdiction played a major role in convincing Libya to come clean on its weapons programs.

December 19, 2003: Libya’s Foreign Ministry publicly renounces the country’s WMD programs. Tripoli promises to eliminate its chemical and nuclear weapons programs, adhere to its commitments under the NPT and BWC, as well as accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Libya also promises to limit the range and payloads of its missiles to conform to guidelines set by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Additionally, Libya agrees to conclude an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. The protocol expands the IAEA’s authority to check for clandestine nuclear activities. Libya invites inspectors to verify compliance with the agreements and assist in the dismantling of its weapons programs.

U.S. and British officials hail the announcement. Bush says that “far better” relations between Washington and Tripoli are possible if the latter fully implements its commitments and “demonstrates its seriousness.” Bush promises U.S. help to “build a more free and prosperous” Libya if the country achieves “internal reform.”

December 27, 2003: IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei visits Libya to begin the process of assessing and verifying Libya’s nuclear dismantlement activities.

2004

January 4, 2004: The London Sunday Times publishes an interview with Gaddafi’s son, who reports that Libya obtained designs for a nuclear weapon from the Khan network.

January 6, 2004: Libya ratifies the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits the explosive testing of nuclear weapons. The treaty has not yet entered into force.

Tripoli also accedes to the CWC. Under the convention, Libya must completely destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles and production capacity by April 29, 2007. Upon joining the CWC, Libya declares the possession of its chemical weapons materials and capabilities as follows: 24.7 metric tonnes (MT) of sulfur mustard; 1,390 MT of precursor chemicals; 3,563 unloaded chemical weapons munitions (aerial bombs); and 3 former chemical weapons production facilities. The OPCW inspections verify these materials and capabilities.

January 18, 2004: U.S. and British officials arrive in Libya to begin elimination and removal of WMD designs and stockpiles. Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Paula DeSutter later tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee February 26 that the Libyan officials are “forthcoming about the myriad aspects” of Libya’s WMD programs.

January 24, 2004: Representative Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the ranking minority member of the House International Relations Committee, becomes the first U.S. lawmaker to visit Libya in decades.

January 27, 2004: U.S. officials airlift about 55,000 pounds of documents and components from Libya’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs to the United States. The nuclear-related material includes uranium hexafluoride (the feedstock for centrifuges), two complete second-generation centrifuges from Pakistan, and additional centrifuge parts, equipment, and documentation.

On March 15, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham calls the airlift “only the tip of the iceberg,” representing just 5 percent of the total amount of material the United States will eventually recover from Libya.

February 4, 2004: Khan reveals that, for two decades, he secretly provided North Korea, Libya, and Iran with technical and material assistance for making nuclear weapons.

February 20, 2004: The IAEA releases a report detailing Libya’s noncompliance with its safeguards agreement and outlining Tripoli’s nascent nuclear program. Specifically, the report describes Libya’s gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program, imports of nuclear material, and designs of facilities for uranium conversion. Libya’s IAEA safeguards agreement required Tripoli to report some of these activities, but the government failed to do so.

The report says that Libya ordered 10,000 advanced centrifuges and received two of them in 2000. Moreover, the report discloses that Libya secretly separated small amounts of plutonium from the spent fuel of the Tajuora Research Reactor during the 1980s.

Although the report states that Libya received nuclear weapons design documents from the Khan network, the IAEA cites no evidence that Libya ever undertook steps to build a nuclear weapon.

February 26, 2004: The United States lifts its Libya travel ban. U.S. citizens are allowed to make travel-related expenditures in Libya, and businesses may enter negotiations to re-acquire pre-sanctions holdings inside Libya. The United States also offers Libya the possibility of opening a diplomatic interests section in Washington.

DeSutter tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the same day that Libya’s decision to abandon its weapons programs should become “a model for other proliferators to mend their ways and help restore themselves to international legitimacy.”

February 27, 2004: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the international body charged with verifying CWC compliance, confirms that Libyan officials provided a “partial initial declaration of their chemical weapons stockpiles” and promised a complete declaration to the organization by March 5, 2004.
The OPCW begins oversight of chemical weapons destruction activities in Libya.

February 28, 2004: At the end of an African Union summit, Gaddafi calls upon other states to abandon their WMD programs. Nuclear weapons, he says, make states less secure.

March 4, 2004: The OPCW reports that “[o]ver 3,300 [empty] aerial bombs, specifically designed to disperse chemical warfare agent, have been individually inventoried, then irreversibly destroyed under stringent international verification.”

March 5, 2004: Libyan officials submit a complete declaration of the state’s chemical weapons stockpile and facilities.

March 19, 2004: Two OPCW inspection teams completed the initial inspection and verified Libya's January declaration.

 

 

March 8, 2004: The United States, with assistance from British and IAEA officials, arranges for 13 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, a fissile material, to be airlifted from Libya to Russia for disposal.

March 10, 2004: Libya signs an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement and reaffirms a December 29 commitment to behave as if the protocol had already entered into force.

DeSutter tells the House International Relations Committee that the United States has removed five 800 kilometer range Scud-C missiles from Libya, as well as additional missile and centrifuge components.

The IAEA Board of Governors adopts a resolution declaring that Libya’s past clandestine nuclear activities “constituted noncompliance” with its IAEA safeguards agreement. Nonetheless, the board welcomes the cooperation and openness of Libyan officials since December 2003 and recommends that ElBaradei report Libya’s noncompliance to the Security Council “for information purposes only.” The IAEA is required to report noncompliance with safeguards agreements to the Security Council, which can then take action against the offending state.

March 23, 2004: Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns meets with Libyan officials, including Gaddafi, in Tripoli. A State Department spokesperson calls the meetings “constructive” and reflective of the “step-by-step normalization” of relations between Libya and the United States. Burns is the most senior U.S. official to visit Libya since 1969.

April 22, 2004: In response to the March IAEA resolution, the Security Council issues a president statement “commending” Libya for its cooperation with the agency.

April 23, 2004: The White House terminates the application of ILSA with respect to Libya. Press Secretary Scott McClellan also announces that the Treasury Department has modified sanctions imposed under the authority of IEEPA. McClellan notes that “the resumption of most commercial activities” between Libya and the United States will now be permitted.

May 13, 2004: Libya announces it will end military trade with countries it deems “source[s] of concern for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” U.S. officials explain that the Libyan announcement follows a private agreement for Libya to end all its military dealings with Syria, Iran, and North Korea. However, the Libyan foreign ministry later denies that the announcement is aimed at Syria.

May 26, 2004: Libya submits its initial declarations required by its additional protocol arrangement with the IAEA.

May 28, 2004: ElBaradei issues a report to the IAEA board detailing the agency’s progress in verifying Libya’s declarations regarding its nuclear program. According to the report, “Libyan authorities have provided prompt, unhindered access to all locations requested by the [a]gency and to all relevant equipment and material declared to be in Libya.”

Speaking June 14 to the board, ElBaradei says questions remain regarding the origin of nuclear material Libya imported during 2000 and 2001, as well as the source of enriched uranium particles found on Libya’s centrifuge equipment. The agency has contacted other governments to investigate entities involved in providing nuclear technology to Libya.

June 28, 2004: Announcing that Washington and Tripoli will resume direct diplomatic ties, Burns inaugurates a new U.S. Liaison Office in Libya.

September 20, 2004: The United States lifts most of its remaining sanctions on Libya. Bush terminates the national emergency declared in 1986 under IEEPA, as well as revokes related executive orders. This action ends the remaining sanctions under IEEPA and ends the need for Treasury Department licenses for trade with Libya.

The United States also permits direct air flights between the two countries, as well as unfreezes Libyan assets in the United States. Additionally, Bush waives prohibitions on extending certain U.S. export assistance programs to Libya and on the ability of U.S. taxpayers to claim credits for taxes paid to Libya.

Libya is still subject to some sanctions as it remains on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. These sanctions include prohibitions on arms exports and Department of Defense contracts. The United States also is required to oppose loans from international financial institutions to such countries and impose export controls on dual-use items.

Two days later, DeSutter tells the House International Relations Committee that verification of Libya’s disarmament tasks is “essentially complete,” adding that the United States, working with the United Kingdom, has completed verifying “with reasonable certainty that Libya has eliminated, or has set in place the elimination of” its weapons programs.

August 30, 2004: ElBaradei issues another report to the IAEA board stating that information Tripoli has given to the agency about its past nuclear activities “appear[s] to be consistent with the information available to and verified by” the IAEA.

According to the report, the IAEA continues to investigate several outstanding issues regarding Libya’s nuclear weapons program, particularly assistance Tripoli received from the Khan network. Cooperation from other countries is “essential” for determining the role of the network in supplying Libya, the report adds.

October 11, 2004: European Union foreign ministers lift a 20 year-old arms embargo on Libya, allowing EU countries to export arms and other military equipment to that country. Part of the EU rationale for lifting the embargo is to improve Libya’s capacity to patrol its maritime borders and prevent illegal immigration to the EU from North Africa, a particular concern of southern European states such as Italy.

European arms transfers are still governed by the EU’s Code of Conduct on Arms Exports and national export control laws.

2005

March 25, 2005: In a letter to The Washington Post, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan declares for the first time publicly the U.S. assessment that the uranium hexafluoride found in Libya originated in North Korea. According to McClellan, this material was transferred to Libya via the A.Q. Khan illicit trafficking network.

October 20, 2005: Libya signs an agreement with Russian nuclear fuel manufacturer TVEL to provide its Tajoura research reactor with low-enriched uranium (LEU) as part of an effort to convert the reactor from using HEU to LEU.

2006

May 15, 2006: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announces the U.S. establishment of full diplomatic relations with Libya. As part of that move, President George W. Bush submits a report to Congress certifying that Tripoli had not engaged in acts of terrorism in the previous six months and had provided assurances that it would not support terrorism, thereby allowing Libya to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

June 26, 2006: The United Kingdom and Libya sign a “Joint Letter of Peace and Security,” in which London pledges to seek UN Security Council action if another state attacks Libya with chemical or biological weapons and pledges to aid Libya in strengthening its defense capabilities.  Both states also announce that they will work jointly to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

July 27, 2006: IAEA and U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration officials help remove the last remaining quantity of fresh HEU from Libya.  Three kilograms of Russian-origin HEU from the Tajoura research reactor in Libya are returned to Russia for disposal.

December 2006: The OPCW establishes Dec. 31, 2010 as the deadline for Libya to destroy its mustard gas stockpiles and Dec. 31, 2011 as the deadline to destroy its remaining chemical weapon precursors.

2007

June 14, 2007: Libya annuls its contract on chemical weapons destruction with the United States due to dissatisfaction with its provisions on liability, financing, and facility ownership. Under its agreement with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, these chemicals must be eliminated by the end of 2010. Libya did not indicate how it intended to meet this commitment.

July 25, 2007: France and Libya sign a memorandum of understanding on nuclear energy cooperation.  The agreement outlines a plan for the eventual construction of a nuclear desalination plant.

2008

January 3, 2008: Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgam pays an official visit to the United States and signs a Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement. This is the first official visit by a Libyan Foreign Minister to the United States since 1972.

August 14, 2008: The United States and Libya sign the U.S -Libya Claims Settlement Agreement, providing full compensation for victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and the bombing of the Berlin disco. Under the terms of the agreement, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice certified to Congress that Libya paid $1.5 billion to cover terrorism related claims against Tripoli. The agreement also addressed Libyan claims arising from U.S. military actions in Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986 to the amount of $300 million.

September 12, 2008: An IAEA Board report says that the agency has completed its investigation of Libya’s past nuclear activities and found that Tripoli had addressed all of the outstanding issues related to its past nuclear activity.

2009

November 20, 2009: Libya unexpectedly halts the shipment of the remaining 5.2 kilograms of HEU in spent fuel from its Tajoura research reactor. The material was scheduled to be flown to Russia for disposal that same month as part of an agreement between the Libya, Russia, and the United States. According to State Department cables obtained by the Guardian in 2010, U.S. Energy Department experts said that concerns about the safety and security of the material presented a high level of urgency, and the HEU needed to be removed within one month.

December 21, 2009: Libya allows a Russian-chartered plane to leave the country carrying the last of its HEU spent fuel stocks for disposal in Russia after a month-long delay.

December 2009: The OPCW approves Libya’s request to extend the deadline for the destruction of its mustard gas stockpiles from December 2010 to May 2011. According to the OPCW report for 2009, Libya destroyed 39% of its chemical weapons precursors by the end of the year but destruction of its mustard gas had not yet begun.

2010

July 2010: The State Department’s arms control Compliance Report says that Libya is complying with its Biological Weapons Convention and  nuclear nonproliferation obligations. It also says that Libya has made progress destroying its chemical weapons stockpile but has not yet met its obligations to adopt legislation to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention.

October 2010: The destruction of one of Libya's chemical agents, sulfur mustard, is initiated.

2011

 

February 23, 2011: OPCW spokesperson Michael Luhan tells the Associated Press that Libya destroyed “nearly 13.5 metric tons” of its mustard gas in 2010, accounting for “about 54 percent of its stockpile.”

February 25, 2011: Citing security concerns due to ongoing political unrest, U.S. officials announce the suspension of U.S. embassy operations in Libya.

February 26, 2011: United Nations Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1970 condemning the lethal actions taken by Gaddafi forces against civilian political protestors.  The resolution also places financial and travel restrictions on regime officials.  The OPCW announced that machinery breakdowns brought to a halt ongoing destruction of sulfur mustard amid rising tensions.

March 17, 2011: The United Nations Security Council adopts Resolution 1973 authorizing an international response to the Libyan civil war.  The resolution creates a no-fly zone over Libya, strengthens an arms embargo and allows forcible inspection of suspected weapons trafficking ships and planes traveling to the country.

March – October 2011: NATO enforces the no-fly zone established by Resolution 1973.  Fighting continues between loyalist Gaddafi forces and the rebel militia.  The National Transition Council (NTC) is generally internationally recognized as the legitimate government of Libya.  U.S. officials publicly assure that remaining sulfur mustard agent and existing weapons stockpiles are secure during the ongoing conflict.

September 23, 2011: The IAEA confirms a cache of yellowcake uranium was discovered in an abandoned nuclear materials warehouse belonging to the Gaddafi regime.  The material is not deemed a high-level security risk because it is not suitable for use in a weapon.

October 20, 2011: Gaddafi is found and killed by rebel forces in the town of Sirte in western Libya.  NATO military operations end and the NTC forms an interim government and schedules elections.

November 1, 2011: The NTC officially notifies the OPCW of what was determined to be two undeclared chemical weapons stockpiles from the previous regime.  The NTC cooperates with OPCW plans to resume destruction of weapons material.

November 28, 2011: The new government in Tripoli submitted an official declaration of the weapons to the OPCW.

December 2011: The IAEA visits the Tajoura Nuclear Facility in Tripoli and a uranium concentrate storage facility in Sabha.  The nuclear watchdog organization informs the UN Security Council that no previously declared stockpiles had been disturbed or reported missing as a result of the conflict.

2012

 

January 17-19, 2012: OPCW inspectors visited Libya to verify the previously undisclosed chemical weapons. The inspection’s purpose is two-fold, for verifying the new declaration with regard to types and quantities of chemical weapons, and for helping the Libyan government in determining whether another set of discovered materials could be declared under the provisions of the CWC.

April 2012: Libya fails to meet the international April 29, 2012 deadline for destruction of remaining chemical weapons.  Libya submits a working paper to the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons affirming the country’s commitment to nuclear disarmament and compliance with IAEA authorities and regulations.

April 25, 2012: OPCW announced it would start the destruction of the mustard gas stockpile. Canada aids in the funding of the destruction.

May 2012: The government submits a revised plan to the OPCW to complete destruction activities by December 2016 with destruction operations to resume in March 2013.  Current Libyan behavior is indicative of a cooperative relationship with international nonproliferation standards.

May 27 – 28, 2012: The Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, visited Tripoli and met the Libyan Foreign Minister, H.E. Ashour Saad Ben Khaial, and the Under Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Aziz. The Libyan authorities have reaffirmed their destruction of remaining chemical weapons as soon as possible.

August 2012: The NTC transfers power to the elected General National Congress.  Mohammed Magarief is elected by the body as interim head of state.

September 20, 2012: The IAEA approves and signs Libya’s Country Programme Framework (CPF) for the period of 2012 to 2017.  The medium-term planning agreement identifies how nuclear technology and resources will be used for economic development in the country.  The IAEA also conducted two missions to Libya in 2012 to review and support nuclear security and infrastructure.

2013

April 20, 2013: Destruction of the remaining 8.82 metric tons of sulfur mustard stored at Ruwagha begins.

May 4, 2013: Libya completes the destruction of 22.3 metric tons of Category 1 chemical weapons, or nearly 85% of the total declared stocks under OPCW verification.

The remaining chemical weapon stockpile is comprised of about 2.45 metric tons of polymerised sulphur mustard and 1.6 metric tons of sulphur mustard loaded in projectiles, bombs and bomb cartridges, as well as 846 metric tons of precursor chemicals.

2014

January 26, 2014: Libya completes the destruction of its category 1 chemical weapons. The OPCW verifies that the destruction is completed. The remaining category 2 materials are scheduled to be destroyed by the end of 2016. 

2016

February 3, 2016: Libya requests assistance from the OPCW in destroying its remaining category 2 chemical weapons. 

July 16, 2016: The Libyan government requests assistance in removing chemical weapons precursors from the country and eliminating them out of the country. 

July 20, 2016: The OPCW approves Libya's request for assistance. 

July 22, 2016: The UN Security Council endorses the OPCW's decision to assist in transporting the precursors out of the country in Resolution 2298. A number of countries, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, offer technical and financial assistance for the removal and destruction. 

August 27, 2016: The OPCW confirms that the precursor chemicals were removed from Libya on Danish ships and brought to Germany for destruction. 

2018

January 11, 2018: The OPCW confirms that the Category 2 chemical materials removed from Libya and transported to Germany had been destroyed, marking the complete destruction of Libya's chemical weapons arsenal.

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons At A Glance

Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107: Shannon Bugos, research assistant, ext. 113.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), negotiated by more than 130 states, is a good faith effort to meet their responsibility as signatories of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue effective measures on disarmament. The prohibition treaty further reinforces the commitments of these states against the use, threat of use, development, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, transfer, stationing, or installation of nuclear weapons. It reinforces states' commitments to the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Although the prohibition treaty by itself will not eliminate any nuclear weapons, the treaty can help to further delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use.

On October 24, 2020, the the 50th state (Honduras) delivered its instrument of ratification, triggering the treaty's entry into force 90 days later, on January 22, 2021. As of March 2021, 86 states have signed the treaty and 54 have ratified it.

The Treaty

Preamble

The treaty has a 24-paragraph preamble acknowledging the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and the value of existing international disarmament agreements including the NPT, the CTBT, and nuclear-weapon-free-zone agreements, as well as the “right” of states-parties to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Prohibitions (Article 1)

States-parties are prohibited to use, threaten to use, develop, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess, stockpile, transfer, station, or install nuclear weapons or assist with any prohibited activities.

Declarations (Article 2)

A state-party must declare, when joining the treaty, whether it has eliminated a previous nuclear weapons program, currently has nuclear weapons, or holds another country's nuclear weapons on its territory. If a state has another country’s nuclear weapons on its territory when it signs the treaty, it must remove them. If it has its own nuclear weapons, it must eliminate them.

Safeguards (Article 3)

Non-nuclear-weapon states are required to have, at a minimum, a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “without prejudice” to any future additional agreements.

Nuclear-weapon states accession (Article 4)

There are two ways for a nuclear-weapon state to accede to the treaty and eliminate its nuclear weapons: It can join the treaty and then destroy its nuclear weapons or destroy its nuclear weapons and then join the treaty. States that “destroy and join” must cooperate with a “competent international authority” designated by the treaty to verify dismantlement. States that “join and destroy” must immediately remove nuclear weapons from operational status and submit a time-bound plan for their destruction within 60 days of joining the treaty.

The treaty does not specify which “competent international authority” would be suited to verify irreversible disarmament of a nuclear-armed state that decides to join the treaty, but the treaty allows for an appropriate authority to be designated at a later date. The treaty requires any current or former nuclear-weapon state that seeks to join the prohibition treaty to conclude a safeguards agreement with the IAEA to verify that nuclear materials are not diverted from peaceful to weapons purposes.

Positive obligations (Articles 6 and 7)

The treaty obligates states-parties to provide victim assistance and environmental remediation to those affected by nuclear weapon use and testing.

Meetings of states-parties, signature, ratification and entry into force (Articles 8, 13, 14, and 15)

Biennial meetings of states-parties will address implementation and other measures. Review conferences will be held every six years. The treaty, opened for signature on September 20, 2017, enters into force 90 days after the 50th state ratifies it.

Background

The initiative to negotiate a "legally binding instrument" to prohibit nuclear weapons is the result of a years-long process that grew out of a renewed recognition of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use, the rising risk of accidental or intentional nuclear use, and a growing sense of frustration that key nuclear disarmament commitments made by the nuclear-weapon states were not being fulfilled.

The 2010 NPT Review Conference unanimously "expresse[d] its deep concern at the continued risk for humanity represented by the possibility that these weapons could be used and the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from the use of nuclear weapons."

These concerns motivated a group of states—including Norway, Mexico, and Austria—to organize a series of three conferences in 2013 and 2014 on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapon use.

Following the conclusion of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, these and other states agreed to set up an open-ended working group in 2016 on advancing multilateral disarmament negotiations. The working group led to the formulation of a resolution in the UN General Assembly to start negotiations in 2017 on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. The resolution passed the UN General Assembly First Committee by a vote of 123-38 with 16 abstentions in October 2016 and was subsequently adopted by the General Assembly as a whole.

Costa Rica’s UN Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez (left), president of the UN conference to negotiate a nuclear-weapons ban treaty, chairs a meeting of the conference March 30, 2017. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

The first negotiating session was held at the UN in New York on March 27-31, 2017, with some 130 governments, and dozens of civil society organizations, participating. The president of the negotiations, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez, compiled states' expressed opinions from the first round of negotiations into a draft convention on the prohibition of nuclear weapons issued on May 22 in Geneva. The second and final round of negotiations took place on June 15-July 7 in New York, with participants adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by a vote of 122-1-1. The Netherlands voted against adoption, and Singapore abstained.

Reactions from the Nuclear-Armed States

Nuclear-weapon states and many NATO members have opposed the initiative from the beginning. Although the United States and the United Kingdom participated in the 2014 Conference on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna, leaders from Washington and the other nuclear-weapon states boycotted the working group sessions and the 2017 treaty negotiations.

These states contend that the treaty will distract attention from other disarmament and nonproliferation initiatives, such as negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty or ratifying the CTBT. They have expressed concern that the nuclear prohibition treaty could undermine the NPT and the extensive safeguard provisions included therein by giving states the option to "forum shop," or choose between the two treaties.

Arguments for the Treaty from Proponent States

Supporters of the nuclear prohibition treaty argue that it will close a "legal gap" that exists regarding nuclear weapons, which are not expressly outlawed by the NPT even though their use would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict. They argue that the prohibition treaty initiative reinforces the NPT and its Article VI requirement for nuclear disarmament and that it can reduce the salience of nuclear weapons and help prompt more urgent action to reduce nuclear risk and promote disarmament.

Timeline

2010
May 3-28: The final document of the 2010 Review Conference for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) acknowledges the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use. 

2013
March 4-5: The first conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use takes place in Oslo, Norway. 

2014
February 13-14: The second conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use takes place in Nayarit, Mexico.  
December 8-9: The final conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use takes place in Vienna, Austria.  
December 9: 127 states endorse the Humanitarian Pledge, calling on all NPT states parties to renew their commitment to Article VI of the NPT and to take interim steps to reduce the risk of nuclear use.

2015
October 29: The UN General Assembly First Committee votes 135-12 with 33 abstentions on a resolution to create an Open Ended Working Group to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. 

2016
February 22-26: The first working group to advance multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations meets in Geneva, Switzerland. 
May 2-4 and 9-13: The second working group to advance multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations meets in Geneva, Switzerland.  
August 16-19: The third working group to advance multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations meets in Geneva, Switzerland, approving a final report by a vote of 68-22 with 13 abstentions.  
October 27: The First Committee adopts a resolution to begin negotiations in 2017 on a nuclear prohibition treaty by a vote of 123-38 with 16 abstentions.  
December 23: The General Assembly approves the resolution to begin negotiations on a nuclear prohibition treaty adopted by the First Committee by a vote of 113-35 and 13 abstentions.

2017
March 27-31: The first round of negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons takes place at the United Nations in New York.  
May 22: President Elayne Whyte Gómez presents the first draft text of the treaty at the United Nations in Geneva.
June 15-July 7: The second round of negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons takes place at the United Nations in New York. 
July 7: The treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons is adopted by a vote of 122-1-1. The Netherlands voted against the treaty, and Singapore abstained.
September 20: The TPNW opens for signature in New York. Fifty states signed the treaty, and three additional states both signed and ratified it by the day's end.

2020
October 23-24: Jamaica, Nauru, and Honduras become the 48th, 49th, and 50th states to deliver their ratification documents, which triggers the treaty's entry into force 90 days later.

2021
January 22:  The treaty entered into force.

2022

January 12-14: First meeting of States Parties, Vienna, Austria

See here for a full list of signatories and states-parties.

 

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

Subject Resources:

Fact Sheet Categories:

UN Security Council Resolution 1540 At a Glance

February 2021

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

On April 28, 2004, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to adopt Resolution 1540, a measure aimed at preventing non-state actors from acquiring nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, their means of delivery, and related materials. The resolution filled a gap in international law by addressing the risk that terrorists might obtain, proliferate, or use weapons of mass destruction.

Adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, UNSCR 1540 formally establishes the proliferation and possession of WMD by non-state actors as “a threat to international peace and security.” The resolution mirrors the approach taken under UNSCR 1373 in 2001, which required all countries to adopt national counter-terrorism laws, and imposes legally binding obligations on all states to adopt "appropriate effective" measures to prevent the proliferation of WMD to non-state actors.

The resolution includes three primary obligations:

  1. All States are prohibited from providing any form of support to non-state actors seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction, related materials, or their means of delivery.
  2. All States must adopt and enforce laws criminalizing the possession and acquisition of such items by non-state actors, as well as efforts to assist or finance their acquisition.
  3. All States must adopt and enforce domestic controls over nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, their means of delivery, and related materials, in order to prevent their proliferation.

UNSCR 1540 also emphasizes the importance of maintaining and promoting existing non-proliferation multilateral agreements and acknowledges that the resolution does not interfere with state obligations under such treaties.

It further recognizes that some countries may require assistance to meet the national implementation obligations of the resolution. As such, the resolution calls on states to make assistance available to countries in need if they are in a position to do so.

The council established a committee to oversee the implementation of the resolution, initially for a period of two years. Comprised of the council’s 15 members and assisted by a panel of experts, the 1540 Committee is tasked with providing awareness of the resolution and its requirements, matching assistance requests with offers, and assessing the status of implementation. States were required to report to the Committee on the actions they have taken or plan to take in order to implement the resolution within 6 months of UNSCR 1540’s adoption, and the council has encouraged subsequent reports to provide additional information.

Despite its aim of preventing nuclear, chemical, and biological terrorism, resolution 1540 initially met with some resistance within the UN Security Council, with critics stressing that the resolution focused solely on nonproliferation without adequate emphasis on disarmament.  There was additional concern that the UN might use UNSCR 1540 to justify sanctions and other forms of coercion for countries that did not adequately comply with the resolution.

These worries were generally alleviated, as evidenced by the UN Security Council's unanimous vote to extend UNSCR 1540’s mandate, first for two years in 2006 under resolution 1673, then for another three years in 2008 under resolution 1810. In April 2011, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1977, extending the mandate a third time, for a period of ten years. UNSCR 1977 reaffirmed the Security Council’s commitment to resolution 1540, and further emphasized cooperation with international, regional, and sub-regional organizations. It also addressed existing concerns among Council members regarding equal regional representation within the 1540 Committee. In December 2016, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2325 encouraging states to strengthen their implementation of Resolution 1540. 

 In addition to annual reviews, the 1540 committee conducts comprehensive reviews every five years on the implementation of Resolution 1540. So far, two comprehensive reviews have been completed, one in 2009 and another in 2016. The 2016 comprehensive final review found that while the number of implementation measures states have taken since 2011 has increased, for many states, gaps in the securing of relevant materials remain. The report also noted that the risk of proliferation to non-state actors is increasing due to rapid advances in science, technology, and international commerce. 

While the committee was scheduled to produce another comprehensive review in December 2020, this process was delayed due to COVID-19. Open consultations with member states, international organizations, and civil society groups are scheduled to resume in 2021 ahead of the renewal of the committee’s mandate on April 25, 2021.

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

Country Resources:

Nuclear Security Summit at a Glance

June 2018

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

The nuclear security summit initiative was announced in an April 2009 speech by U.S. President Barack Obama, in which he pledged to hold a global summit on nuclear security in 2010 as part of an effort to "secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.” The broad goal of the summit process is to address the threat of nuclear terrorism by minimizing and securing weapons-usable civilian nuclear materials, enhancing international cooperation to prevent the illicit acquisition of nuclear material by non-state actors such as terrorist groups and smugglers, and taking steps to strengthen the global nuclear security system. The nuclear security summit focus remained on nuclear material in the civil sphere and did not address the security of military nuclear material.

There were four summits in total: in Washington, D.C. in 2010, Seoul, South Korea in 2012, the Hague, Netherlands in 2014 and Washington, D.C. again in 2016.

Each summit produced a consensus communiqué that reaffirmed the broad goals of the summit process and encouraged states to take actions, such as ratifying key treaties or minimizing stockpiles of weapons-usable materials. These voluntary, caveated recommendations were enhanced by individual state-specific commitments made at each summit. These pledges, known as “house gifts,” included actions such as repatriating weapons-usable materials, holding trainings for nuclear security personnel, updating national laws and regulations, and taking steps to combat illicit trafficking. At each subsequent summit, states reported on the progress made toward fulfilling these commitments. All 53 participating states made national pledges at at least one summit.

Beginning at the 2012 summit in Seoul, groups of countries offered multinational commitments, known as “gift baskets” that targeted key areas of nuclear security. In 2012, 13 joint statements were offered. That number increased to 14 in 2014, with some gift baskets building off of 2012 statements and others targeting new areas. In 2016, states produced 21 gift baskets.

Of the 53 countries to participate in the 2012 summit, 48 participated in at least one joint statement in 2012.

At the last summit in 2016, countries agreed to five action plans for international organizations to take forward the work of the summits beyond their conclusion. 

Nuclear Security Summits Quick Links
Washington, 2010 Seoul, 2012 Hague, 2014 Washington, 2016

 

Washington 2010

The first Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington, D.C. from April 12-13, 2010. Forty-seven national delegations as well as the heads of the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European Union attended. With 38 of the 47 participating countries represented at the head of state or head of government level, the gathering was the largest of its kind hosted by a U.S. President since 1945.

The summit produced the first of four communiqués, the summit’s only work plan, and the first national commitments or house gifts.

Communiqué 

  • Recognizes that highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium require special precautions and encourages the conversion of reactors from HEU to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel and minimization of use of HEU, where feasible.
  • Reaffirms the essential role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in the international nuclear security framework and will work to ensure that it continues to have the appropriate structure, resources and expertise to carry out its activities.
  • Recognizes the continuing role of nuclear industry in nuclear security.
  • Supports the implementation of strong nuclear security practices that will not infringe upon the rights of States to develop and utilize nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and technology and will facilitate international cooperation in the field of nuclear security.

Washington Work Plan 

The Work Plan lays out the specific steps for realizing the goals of the Communiqué, including ratification and implementation of international treaties; support for Security Council Resolution 1540; conversion of civilian facilities from HEU to non-weapons-useable materials; research on new nuclear fuels; detection methods and forensic technologies; development of corporate and institutional cultures that prioritize nuclear security; education and training; and joint exercises among law enforcement and customs officials to enhance nuclear detection opportunities.

Selected National Commitments (House Gifts)

Thirty countries announced 67 specific measures they planned to implement to support the goals of the summit. Prior to the 2012 Seoul summit, approximately 80 percent of these commitments were completed. For an accounting of the implementation of the 2010 national commitments, see: The Nuclear Security Summit: Assessment of National Commitments, March 2012.

Some of the national commitments include:

  1. Belgium, Kazakhstan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom will convert a HEU research reactor to LEU.
  2. Canada will return a large amount of spent HEU fuel from their medical isotope production reactor to the United States and fund HEU removals from Mexico and Vietnam.
  3. Kazakhstan, Mexico and Ukraine will eliminate remaining HEU. Ukraine committed to eliminate half of its HEU by the year’s end.
  4. Norway will contribute $3.3 million over the next four years to the IAEA nuclear security fund.
  5. Russia committed to sign the Plutonium Disposition protocol to  end plutonium production and to contribute to IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund.

See a full list of national commitments here.

  Seoul 2012

From March 26-27, 2012, 53 heads of state along with representatives from the UN, IAEA, EU and INTERPOL gathered for the second nuclear security summit in Seoul, South Korea. Participating countries included the 47 countries that attended the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit plus Azerbaijan, Denmark, Gabon, Hungary, Lithuania, and Romania.

The scope of the 2012 agenda was expanded to include discussions on the security of radiological sources and the interface between nuclear security and safety, a concern highlighted by the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

In additional to the consensus communiqué and national commitments, or house gifts, states also introduced joint proposals, or gift baskets for the first time in 2012. All states also submitted voluntary progress reports on their national commitments from 2010.

Communiqué 

  • Reaffirms the fundamental responsibility of States to maintain effective security of all nuclear materials, including through the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) as amended, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT); reiterates broader participation in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) and the G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction; continued support of UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1977.
  • Encourages States to minimize the use of HEU, where feasible, and to convert reactors from HEU to LEU fuel; urges states to secure nuclear materials and radioactive materials through proper transportation, accounting, consolidation and storage practices; emphasizes the need to develop national capabilities to combat illicit nuclear trafficking through utilizing nuclear forensics, investing in the promotion of a strong nuclear security culture, and preventing non-state actors from obtaining sensitive information.
  • Encourages efforts to control radioactive material, including through IAEA measures such as the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources and the Guidance on the Import and Expert of Radioactive Sources.
  • Urges states in a position to do so to accelerate their domestic approval of the 2005 Amendment to the CPPNM, seeking to bring the Amendment into force by 2014
  • Encourages states in a position to do so, by the end of 2013, to announce voluntary specific actions intended to minimize the use of HEU.

Selected Accomplishments

  1. Algeria, Argentina, Mexico, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam joined the GINCT.
  2. Czech Republic, Mexico, Vietnam converted their research reactors using HEU fuel to LEU fuel.
  3. Ukraine completed the removal of all HEU stockpiles.
  4. Kazakhstan secured spent nuclear fuel, which contained enough HEU and plutonium to make several hundred nuclear weapons by moving them to a new long-term storage facility.
  5. Russia and the United States down-blended HEU equivalent to around 3,000 nuclear weapons to LEU. 

Selected National Commitments (House Gifts)

  1. Armenia, Brazil, Canada, France, Georgia, Italy, Malaysia, Morocco, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Vietnam committed to ratify the 2005 Amendment to the CPPNM.
  2. Brazil, Chile, Malaysia, Nigeria will establish nuclear security support centers.
  3. Italy will repatriate excess HEU and plutonium to the U.S. by the 2014 summit.
  4. Pakistan will open Nuclear Security Training Centers to act as a regional and international hub and deploy Special Nuclear Material Portals on key exit and entry points to counter the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials.
  5. Singapore committed to establish a national nuclear forensics laboratory by 2013.

Joint Commitments (Gift Baskets)

  1. Kazakhstan, Russia and the United States committed to continue to cooperate to secure the former Semipalatinsk test site.
  2. Indonesia and 17 others agreed to draw up a National Legislation Implementation Kit on Nuclear Security to help states align domestic laws with international treaties and regulations that address nuclear security. 
  3. Twenty-three states collaborated to develop International Network for Nuclear Security Training and Support Centres (NSSCs) to develop highly trained nuclear security personnel, and provide technical and scientific support for nuclear security technical systems and to detect nuclear security events. 
  4. France, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States agreed to hold working group meetings, the first one in 2013, to address nuclear transport security issues. 
  5. Chile, Nigeria, Morocco, Poland, Republic of Korea, Thailand and the United States hosted regional outreach meetings to discuss nuclear security challenges and promote the continuation of outreach efforts. 
  6. Russia and the United States explained the contributions of the GICNT to nuclear security, including through the creation of the Nuclear Detection Working Group, chaired by the Netherlands. 
  7. Canada, Mexico and the United States announced a collaborative effort to convert Mexico’s research reactor from HEU to LEU. 
  8. Belgium, France, the Republic of Korea and the United States declared a joint project to use high-density LEU fuel production technology to convert research reactors from HEU to LEU. 
  9. Belgium, Canada, France, the Netherlands reaffirmed their commitment to convert “production industries to non-HEU-based processes by 2015, subject to regulatory approvals” and the United States agreed to supply those countries with HEU target material for the “uninterrupted production of medical isotopes... while achieving the goal of HEU minimalization.”
  10. Nineteen states pledged to build national capacities to counter nuclear smuggling, to pass new laws against nuclear smuggling by the 2014 summit, to share information on nuclear smuggling with partner countries and to make resources available for counter smuggling projects. 
  11. Germany and 24 other states described the threat posed by radioactive material and encouraged states to ratify or accede to the ICSANT and establish national registers of high-activity radioactive sources. 
  12. Thirty-one states committed to enhance nuclear information security, including by conducting national assurance exercises, and developing government processes to control the export of nuclear information. 
  13. France, the United States and the United Kingdom committed to“strengthen worldwide preparedness to contend with the threat of nuclear terrorism.” 

For a report on progress on these commitments, see: The Nuclear Security Summit: Progress Report, July 2013.

The Hague 2014

On March 24-25, 2014, all 53 countries and four international organizations who met in 2012 reconvened for the third nuclear security summit in the Hague, Netherlands.

The Netherlands laid out several goals for the summit, including; reducing stockpiles of nuclear materials, improving the security of nuclear and radioactive sources, increasing coordination with the nuclear industry, and improving international cooperation.

Leaders also participated in a scenario-based policy exercise, during which they had the opportunity to think through responses to a radioactive device, and held a discussion on the future of the summit process.

Communiqué 

  • Identifies a range of voluntary measures States may consider taking to show that they have established effective security of their nuclear materials and facilities while protecting sensitive information. Such measures include exchanging good practices, inviting IAEA review and advisory services and following through on recommendations, further developing training of personnel involved in nuclear security.
  • Supports a more intensive dialogue between operators and government bodies, including the national regulator, which should be functionally independent, with a view to improving nuclear security regulations and regulatory effectiveness.
  • Encourages states to take effective risk mitigation measures to ensure that the systems and networks of nuclear facilities are appropriately secured from cyber attack.

Selected Accomplishments

  1. Belgium, Canada, and France completed steps necessary to ratify the 2005 amendment to the CPPNM.
  2. Germany hosted the Wiesabaden Conference in 2012 and 2013 to strengthen the partnership between government and industry. In 2013, the conference focused on UNSCR 1540 implementation.
  3. Italy returned 20 kilograms of HEU and plutonium in coordination with the IAEA and the United Kingdom. 
  4. The United Arab Emirates signed an Integrated master Working Plan with the IAEA to enhance the partnership between the IAEA and the UAE.
  5. The United States and Russia successfully completed the HEU Purchase Agreement under which 500 metric tons of Russian weapons-origin HEU- the equivalent for approximately 20,000 nuclear warheads - was converted into LEU and used in U.S. power reactors to produce 10 percent of all U.S. electricity during the past 15 years.

Selected National Commitments (House Gifts)

  1. Belgium, Italy and Japan made commitments to remove excess HEU and plutonium.
  2. Denmark committed an additional 8 million Danish Krona (about $1.3 million) to the IAEA.
  3. Finland committed to host the next plenary meeting of the GICNT.
  4. Hungary will host an event of the GICNT on nuclear forensics libraries in the fall of 2014 in Budapest.
  5. Poland committed to eliminate the last of its HEU from its territory by 2016.

Joint Statements (Gift Baskets)

The gift baskets from the 2014 summit built on several of the subjects from the 2012 summit. The new gift baskets to the 2014 summit are listed below.

  1. Twelve states marked the elimination of HEU from their borders. 
  2. The Netherlands headed a new gift basket on nuclear forensics, including a platform for sharing best practices in the event of a nuclear or radiological incident. 
  3. Thirty-two states reiterated their support for the full and universal implementation of UNSCR 1540 and agreed to consider hosting regional capacity building events to support UNSCR 1540. 
  4. Thirteen states agreed to participate in a workshop by the next nuclear security summit to detect and remove nuclear and radiological materials that are out of regulatory control from the global supply chain. 
  5. The United States, South Korea, and the Netherlands led a joint statement supported by 32 additional states that committed participants to meet the intent of IAEA recommendations for nuclear security and take further steps to provide assurance of sound nuclear security practices. 

For more information on these commitments see: The Nuclear Security Summit: Assessment of Joint Statements, March 2014.

For a report on progress on these commitments see: The Nuclear Security Summit: Progress Report on Joint Statements, March 2015.

Washington 2016

The fourth and final summit took place in Washington, D.C. from March 31-April 1, 2016. Of the 53 states and four international organizations that attended the 2012 and 2014 summits, all attended except Russia.

For more information, see The Nuclear Security Summit: Accomplishments of the Process, March 2016. 

Communiqué 

  • Welcomes the imminent entry into force of the 2005 Amendment to the CPPNM and Facilities and encourage further ratifications.
  • Seeks to maintain the international network of officials and government experts who have supported the Summit process and to incorporate the broader community of States, as well as encourage the continued engagement of relevant partners in nuclear industry and civil society.
  • Resolves to implement the attached Action Plans, in support of the international organizations and initiatives to which we respectively belong (the United Nations, the IAEA, INTERPOL, the GICNT, and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction), to be carried out on a voluntary basis and consistent with national laws and respective international obligations.

Selected Accomplishments

  1. The 2005 amendment to the CPPNM received the necessary ratifications to enter into force. 
  2. China converted a research reactor from HEU to LEU in March 2016.
  3. Egypt held training courses on the security of research reactors and associated facilities.
  4. Georgia:  With the support of the IAEA, adopted an Integrated Nuclear Security Support Plan through 2019.
  5. New Zealand enacted the Radiation Safety Act (2016) to better address the safety of nuclear and radioactive material. 

Selected National Commitments (House Gifts)

  1. Argentina committed to eliminate its HEU, making Latin America and the Caribbean the first regional HEU-free region.
  2. Egypt committed $10 million to establish a nuclear counterterrorism center at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna.
  3. Lithuania committed to welcome the IAEA’s International Physical Protection Advisory Service Mission (IPPAS) in 2017.
  4. Morocco agreed to establish the “Moroccan Agency for Safety and Security in Nuclear and Radiological Fields.”
  5. South Africa committed to finalize the establishment of a nuclear forensics facility. 

Joint Statements (Gift Baskets)

Gift Baskets continued to build on proposals from previous years. For a complete list of 2016 Gift Baskets, see here. Proposals unique to 2016 are listed below.

  1. Seventeen states developed a “Consolidated National Nuclear Security Report” as a suggested reporting template. 
  2. Twenty-nine states agreed to participate in two workshops on cyber security in 2016. 
  3. Twenty-seven states agreed to establish national measure to mitigate insider threats in nuclear and radiological security programs. 
  4. Eighteen states noted the progress on towards establishing an IAEA LEU Bank with Kazakhstan and looked forward to its full-scale implementation.
  5. Twenty-three states committed to improve national detection practices to combat the trafficking of nuclear materials. 
  6. Forty states agreed to establish a Nuclear Security Contact Group and to designate an official to participate in the contact group in order to sustain activity on nuclear security after the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit. 

Action plans

The final nuclear security summit established five action plans for international organizations to take forward the work of the summits.

  1. United Nations Action Plan 
  2. IAEA Action Plan 
  3. International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) Action Plan 
  4. Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) Action Plan 
  5. Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction Action Plan 
Strategic Arms Control and Policy

Subject Resources:

Fact Sheet Categories:

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at a Glance

August 2017

Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107; Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Established in 1975, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is comprised of 48 states that have voluntarily agreed to coordinate their export controls to non-nuclear-weapon states. The NSG governs the transfers of civilian nuclear material and nuclear-related equipment and technology. The participants are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The NSG aims to prevent nuclear exports for commercial and peaceful purposes from being used to make nuclear weapons. In order to ensure that their nuclear imports are not used to develop weapons, NSG members are expected to forgo nuclear trade with governments that do not subject themselves to confidence-building international measures and inspections. The NSG has two sets of Guidelines listing the specific nuclear materials, equipment, and technologies that are subject to export controls.

 

History

Negotiated in 1968, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) granted non-nuclear-weapon states access to nuclear materials and technology for strictly peaceful purposes.

Recognizing peaceful nuclear programs could turn into weapons programs, several NPT nuclear supplier states sought to determine the conditions for sharing specific equipment and materials with non-nuclear-weapon states. In 1971, these supplier states formed the Zangger Committee in order to require states outside the NPT to institute International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards before importing certain items that could be used to pursue nuclear weapons—referred to as the "Trigger List."

India's explosion of a nuclear device in 1974 reaffirmed the fact that nuclear materials and technologies acquired under the guise of peaceful purposes could be diverted to build weapons. In response to India's action, several Zangger Committee members, along with France—who was not a member of the NPT at that time—established the NSG to further regulate nuclear-related exports. The NSG also added supplemental technologies to the original Zangger Committee's "Trigger List," becoming Part I of the NSG Guidelines. In addition, NSG members agreed to apply their trade restrictions to all states, not just those outside the NPT.

 

Guidelines and Operation

The NSG Guidelines require that importing states provide assurances to NSG members that proposed deals will not contribute to the creation of nuclear weapons. Potential recipients are also expected to have physical security measures in place to prevent theft or unauthorized use of their imports and to promise that nuclear materials and information will not be transferred to a third party without the explicit permission of the original exporter. In addition, final destinations for any transfer must have IAEA safeguards in place. The IAEA is charged with verifying that non-nuclear-weapon states are not illicitly pursuing nuclear weapons. To prevent nuclear material or technology from being stolen or misappropriated for weapons, IAEA safeguards include inspections, remote monitoring, seals, and other measures.

The Guidelines are comprised of two parts, each created in response to significant proliferation events that highlighted shortcomings in the export control systems.

Part I lists materials and technology designed specifically for nuclear use. These include fissile materials, nuclear reactors and equipment, and reprocessing and enrichment equipment. First published in 1978, Part I responded to India's 1974 diversion of nuclear imports for supposedly peaceful purposes to conduct a nuclear explosion. To be eligible for importing Part I items from an NSG member, states must have comprehensive IAEA safeguards covering all their nuclear activities and facilities. In the case of Part II goods, IAEA safeguards are only required for the specific nuclear activity or facility designated for the import.

Part II identifies dual-use goods; non-nuclear items with legitimate civilian applications that can also be used to develop weapons. Machine tools and lasers are two types of dual-use goods. NSG members adopted Part II in 1992 after discovering how close Iraq came to realizing its nuclear weapons ambitions. Iraq had illicitly employed dual-use imports in a covert nuclear weapons program before the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

At a May 2004 meeting, NSG members adopted a "catch-all" mechanism, which authorizes members to block any export suspected to be destined to a nuclear weapons program even if the export does not appear on one of the control lists.

Because the regime is voluntary, NSG members may ultimately make a political calculation to proceed with a transfer that violates the guidelines. For instance, Russia transferred nuclear fuel to India in January 2001 even though 32 of 34 NSG members earlier declared that the shipment would contradict Russia's NSG commitments.

Members are supposed to report their export denials to each other so potential proliferators cannot approach several suppliers with the same request and receive different responses. NSG states are expected to refrain from making exports identical or similar to those denied by other members.

In 2008, the NSG agreed to exempt India from its requirement that recipient countries must have comprehensive IAEA safeguards covering all nuclear activities. The United States pressed for a three-year exemption to allow nuclear trade with India, but some NSG members were reluctant to agree to such a reversal. The waiver commits each NSG member to regularly inform the group of approved transfers to India and invites each country to share information on their bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with India.

As part of the organization, NSG members periodically review the Guidelines to add new items that pose proliferation risks or to eliminate goods that no longer require special trade controls. An annual plenary, which is chaired on a rotating basis among members, is held to discuss the regime's operation, including possible changes to the Guidelines. All NSG decisions are made by consensus. Members also participate in regular meetings of separate standing bodies—the Dual-Use Consultations and the Joint Information Exchange—devoted to reviewing Part II of the Guidelines and exchanging pertinent information.

The Permanent Mission of Japan to the International Organisations in Vienna serves as the NSG point of contact. It receives and distributes NSG documents, schedules meetings, and assists with other administrative work.

 

Membership

Any state that conducts exports appearing on the Guidelines may apply for NSG membership. A potential member is evaluated on its proliferation record for national export controls and adherence to international nonproliferation treaties and agreements. All existing members must approve an applicant for admittance to the regime. There are several countries with nuclear programs outside the NSG, most notably India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea.

In recent years, India has advanced its bid to join the NSG. Although President Barack Obama  expressed support for India’s membership to the NSG in 2010, the group remains divided, in part because, as a non-state-party to the NPT, India doesn’t meet a core criterion for membership.

At the June 2016 NSG meeting, the United States and India pushed for acceptance of India’s bid for membership. All of the participating states, except for China, support allowing  India to join the NSG without signing the NPT. China noted that other non-NPT states in addition to India had expressed desire in joining the NSG, and therefore India should not receive an exclusive exemption. As China’s ambassador to Vienna, Shi Zhongjun, explained in June 2016, as “NPT membership constitutes one of the prerequisite factors for consideration of NSG participation, [m]ore discussions are needed before the Group is in a position to review…participation by any specific non-NPT state at the meetings of the Group.” China’s aim is to define non-discriminatory guidelines for membership that would remove the possibility of political bias.

In response to India’s bid, Pakistan also expressed a desire to join the NSG. On May 20, 2016, Pakistan’s ambassador sent a letter to formally apply for NSG membership, arguing that it also has the credentials to join.

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

The Outer Space Treaty at a Glance

August 2017

Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty bans the stationing of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in outer space, prohibits military activities on celestial bodies, and details legally binding rules governing the peaceful exploration and use of space.

The treaty entered into force Oct. 10, 1967, and has 110 states-parties, with another 89 countries that have signed it but have not yet completed ratification.

Treaty Terms

The treaty forbids countries from deploying "nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction" in outer space. The term "weapons of mass destruction" is not defined, but it is commonly understood to include nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The treaty, however, does not prohibit the launching of ballistic missiles, which could be armed with WMD warheads, through space. The treaty repeatedly emphasizes that space is to be used for peaceful purposes, leading some analysts to conclude that the treaty could broadly be interpreted as prohibiting all types of weapons systems, not just WMD, in outer space.

The treaty's key arms control provisions are in Article IV. States-parties commit not to:

  • Place in orbit around the Earth or other celestial bodies any nuclear weapons or objects carrying WMD.
  • Install WMD on celestial bodies or station WMD in outer space in any other manner.
  • Establish military bases or installations, test "any type of weapons," or conduct military exercises on the moon and other celestial bodies.

Other treaty provisions underscore that space is no single country's domain and that all countries have a right to explore it. These provisions state that:

  • Space should be accessible to all countries and can be freely and scientifically investigated.
  • Space and celestial bodies are exempt from national claims of ownership.
  • Countries are to avoid contaminating and harming space or celestial bodies.
  • Countries exploring space are responsible and liable for any damage their activities may cause.
  • Space exploration is to be guided by "principles of cooperation and mutual assistance," such as obliging astronauts to provide aid to one another if needed.

Like other treaties, the Outer Space Treaty allows for amendments or member withdrawal. Article XV permits countries to propose amendments. An amendment can only enter into force if accepted by a majority of states-parties, and it will only be binding on those countries that approve the amendment. Article XVI states a country's withdrawal from the treaty will take effect a year after it has submitted a written notification of its intentions to the depositary states: the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

History

Talks on preserving outer space for peaceful purposes began in the late 1950s at the United Nations. The United States and its Western allies submitted proposals in 1957 on reserving space exclusively for "peaceful and scientific purposes," but the Soviet Union rejected these efforts because it was preparing to launch the world's first satellite and test its first intercontinental ballistic missile.

In 1963, the UN General Assembly approved two resolutions on outer space that subsequently became the basis for the Outer Space Treaty. UN Resolution 1884 called on countries to refrain from stationing WMD in outer space. UN Resolution 1962 set out legal principles on outer space exploration, which stipulated that all countries have the right to freely explore and use space.

The United States and Soviet Union submitted separate draft outer space treaties to the UN General Assembly in June 1966. A mutually agreed treaty text was worked out over the next six months, and the UN General Assembly gave its approval of the treaty on December 19, 1966. The treaty opened for signature in Washington, Moscow, and London on January 27, 1967 and entered into force October 10, 1967.

—Research assistance by Ben Rusek

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

Subject Resources:

Fact Sheet Categories:

Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZ) At a Glance

July 2017

Press Contacts: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

 

What is a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone?

A nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) is a specified region in which countries commit themselves not to manufacture, acquire, test, or possess nuclear weapons. Five such zones exist today, with four of them spanning the entire Southern Hemisphere. The regions currently covered under NWFZ agreements include: Latin America (the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco), the South Pacific (the 1985 Treaty of Rarotonga), Southeast Asia (the 1995 Treaty of Bangkok) Africa (the 1996 Treaty of Pelindaba) and Central Asia (the 2006 Treaty of Semipalatinsk).

Background

Initial efforts to create an area free of nuclear weapons began in the late 1950s with several proposals to establish such a zone in Central and Eastern Europe. Poland offered the first proposal-named the Rapacki Plan after the Polish foreign minister-in 1958. The Rapacki Plan sought to initially keep nuclear weapons from being deployed in Poland, Czechoslovakia, West Germany, and East Germany, while reserving the right for other European countries to follow suit. The Soviet Union, Sweden, Finland, Romania, and Bulgaria also floated similar proposals. All these early efforts, however, floundered amidst the U.S.-Soviet superpower conflict, although the Rapacki Plan would serve as a model to the nuclear-weapon-free zones that were eventually set up in other regions of the globe.

Article VII of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which entered into force in 1970, affirms the right of countries to establish specified zones free of nuclear weapons. The UN General Assembly reaffirmed that right in 1975 and outlined the criteria for such zones. Within these nuclear-weapon-free zones, countries may use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Protocol for Nuclear Weapon States

Each treaty establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone includes a protocol for the five nuclear-weapon states recognized under the NPT-China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States-to sign and ratify. These protocols, which are legally binding, call upon the nuclear-weapon states to respect the status of the zones and not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against treaty states-parties. Such declarations of non-use of nuclear weapons are referred to as negative security assurances. For more information, see Nuclear Declaratory Policy and Negative Security Assurances.

However, the five nuclear-armed countries have at times signed and ratified a NWFZ protocol and declared conditions reserving the right to use nuclear weapons in certain scenarios against parties to a nuclear-weapon-free zone. For instance, the United States signed the protocol for the African nuclear-weapon-free zone in April 1996 with a declaration that it would reserve the right to respond with all options, implying possible use of nuclear weapons, to a chemical or biological weapons attack by a member of the zone. None of the nuclear-weapon states have signed the relevant protocol for the treaty creating a zone in Southeast Asia because of concerns that it conflicts with the right of their ships and aircraft to have freedom of movement in international waters and airspace and problems with the definitions of territory, since includes exclusive economic zones and continental shelves. The other three zones do not explicitly rule out the transit of nuclear weapons by nuclear-weapon states through the zones, and the general practice of nuclear-weapon states is not to declare whether nuclear weapons are aboard their vessels.

In addition to nuclear-weapon-free zones, there are treaties and declarations, which are not covered by this fact sheet, banning the deployment of nuclear weapons in Antarctica, Mongolia, on the seabed, and in outer space.

Basic Elements of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaties

Duration: The treaties are to remain in force indefinitely. Yet, each treaty includes a withdrawal option for states-parties. With the exception of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which simply requires three months' advance notice before a withdrawal can take effect, all the NWFZ treaties require 12 months' advance notice for a state-party to end its treaty obligations.

Conditions: None of the treaties can be subjected to conditions by its non-nuclear-weapon states-parties.

Verification: Each state-party adopts comprehensive safeguards administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which verifies that states-parties are not pursuing nuclear weapons illicitly. The Central Asian NWFZ goes a step further in requiring that states in the region adopt the IAEA's Additional Protocol, which provides for expanded monitoring.

Territory Covered: Each zone applies to the entire territories of all of its states-parties. Territory is understood to include all land holdings, internal waters, territorial seas, and archipelagic waters. The Latin American treaty also extends hundreds of kilometers from the states-parties' territories into the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, but the nuclear-weapon states, citing their freedom at sea, assert that this does not apply to their ships and aircraft that might be carrying nuclear weapons. A dispute also exists over the inclusion of the Chagos Archipelago, which includes the U.S. military base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, as part of the proposed African nuclear-weapon-free zone. Neither the United States nor the United Kingdom recognizes Diego Garcia as being subject to the Pelindaba Treaty.


The Treaty of Tlatelolco (Latin America and the Caribbean)

Opened for signature: February 14, 1967
Entered into force: October 23, 2002[1]

States-Parties

Signed

Ratified

Antigua and Barbuda

October 11, 1983

October 11, 1983

Argentina

September 27, 1967

January 18, 1994

Bahamas

November 29, 1976

April 26, 1977

Barbados

October 18, 1968

April 25, 1969

Belize

February 14, 1992

November 9, 1994

Bolivia (Plurinational State of)

February 14, 1967

February 18, 1969

Brazil

May 9, 1967

January 29, 1968

Chile

February 14, 1967

October 9, 1974

Colombia

February 14, 1967

August 4, 1972

Costa Rica

February 14, 1967

August 25, 1969

Cuba

March 25, 1995

October 23, 2002

Dominica

May 2, 1989

June 4, 1993

Dominican Republic

July 28, 1967

June 14, 1968

Ecuador

February 14, 1967

February 11, 1969

El Salvador

February 14, 1967

April 22, 1968

Grenada

April 29, 1975

June 20, 1975

Guatemala

February 14, 1967

February 6, 1970

Guyana

January 16, 1995

January 16, 1995

Haiti

February 14, 1967

May 23, 1969

Honduras

February 14, 1967

September 23, 1968

Jamaica

October 26, 1967

June 26, 1969

Mexico

February 14, 1967

September 20, 1967

Nicaragua

February 15, 1967

October 24, 1968

Panama

February 14, 1967

June 11, 1971

Paraguay

April 26, 1967

March 19, 1969

Peru

February 14, 1967

March 4, 1969

Saint Kitts and Nevis

February 18, 1994

April 18, 1995

Saint Lucia

August 25, 1992

June 2, 1995

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

February 14, 1992

February 14, 1992

Suriname

February 13, 1976

June 10, 1977

Trinidad and Tobago

June 27, 1967

December 3, 1970

Uruguay

February 14, 1967

August 20, 1968

Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)

February 14, 1967

March 23, 1970

Protocol ratification by nuclear-weapon states: 

Protocol

Subject

States Ratified

Protocol I

Jurisdictional responsibility

France, United Kingdom, United States

Protocol II

Negative security assurances

China, France, United Kingdom, United States, Soviet Union[2]

 

The Treaty of Rarotonga (South Pacific)

Opened for signature: August 6, 1985
Entered into force: December 11, 1986

States-Parties

Signed

Ratified

Australia

August 6, 1985

December 11, 1986

Cook Islands

August 6, 1985

October 28, 1985

Fiji

August 6, 1985

October 4, 1985

Kiribati

August 6, 1985

October 28, 1986

Nauru

July 17, 1986

April 13, 1987

New Zealand

August 6, 1985

November 13, 1986

Niue

August 6, 1985

May 12, 1986

Papua New Guinea

September 16, 1985

September 15, 1989

Samoa

August 6, 1985

October 20, 1986

Solomon Islands

May 29, 1987

June 27, 1989

Tonga

August 2, 1996

December 18, 2000

Tuvalu

August 6, 1985

January 16, 1986

Vanuatu

September 16, 1995

February 9, 1996

Protocol ratification by nuclear-weapon states: 

Protocol

Subject

States Ratified

Protocol I*

Prohibition on the manufacture, stationing and testing of any nuclear explosive device

France, United Kingdom

Protocol II

Negative security assurances

China, France, United Kingdom, Soviet Union[2]

Protocol III

Ban on nuclear testing in nuclear-weapon-free zone

Soviet Union[2]

*(open only to France, the United Kingdom and the United States)

 

The Treaty of Bangkok (Southeast Asia)

Opened for signature: December 15, 1995
Entered into force: March 27, 1997

States-Parties

Signed

Ratified

Brunei Darussalam

December 15, 1995

November 22, 1996

Cambodia

December 15, 1995

March 27, 1997

Indonesia

December 15, 1995

April 10, 1997

Lao People’s Democratic Republic

December 15, 1995

July 16, 1996

Malaysia

December 15, 1995

October 11, 1996

Myanmar

December 15, 1995

July 17, 1996

Philippines

December 15, 1995

June 21, 2001

Singapore

December 15, 1995

March 27, 1997

Thailand

December 15, 1995

March 20, 1997

Vietnam

December 15, 1995

November 26, 1996

Protocol ratification by nuclear-weapon states: 

  • None. Five nuclear weapons states and ASEAN members met in July 2012 to sign the treaty protocol. The treaty commission, however, postponed the signing of the protocol until November, requesting more time to review reservations that several of the NWS indicated that they would attach during ratification.

 

The Treaty of Pelindaba (Africa)

Opened for signature: April 11, 1996
Entered into force: July 15, 2009

States-Parties

Signed

Ratified

Algeria

April 11, 1996

February 11, 1998

Angola

April 11, 1996

June 20, 2014

Benin               

April 11, 1996

September 4, 2007

Botswana

June 9, 1998

June 16, 1999

Burkina Faso

April 11, 1996

August 27, 1998

Burundi

April 11, 1996

July 15, 2009

Cameroon

April 11, 1996

September 28, 2010

Cape Verde

April 11, 1996

-----

Central African Republic

April 11, 1996

-----

Chad

April 11, 1996

January 18, 2012

Comoros

April 11, 1996

July 24, 2012

Congo

January 27, 1997

November 26, 2013

Cote D’Ivoire        

April 11, 1996

July 28, 1999

Democratic Republic of the Congo

April 11, 1996

-----

Djibouti

April 11, 1996

-----

Egypt

April 11, 1996

-----

Equatorial Guinea

 

February 19, 2003

Eritrea

April 11, 1996

-----

Ethiopia

April 11, 1996

March 13, 2008

Gabon

April 11, 1996

June 12, 2007

Gambia

April 11, 1996

October 16, 1996

Ghana

April 11, 1996

June 27, 2011

Guinea

April 11, 1996

January 21, 2000

Guinea-Bissau

April 11, 1996

January 4, 2012

Kenya

April 11, 1996

January 9, 2001

Lesotho

April 11, 1996

March 14, 2002

Liberia

July 9, 1996

-----

Libya

April 11, 1996

May 11, 2005

Madagascar

 

December 23, 2003

Malawi

April 11, 1996

April 23, 2009

Mali

April 11, 1996

July 22, 1999

Mauritania

April 11, 1996

February 24, 1998

Mauritius

April 11, 1996

April 24, 1996

Mozambique

April 11, 1996

August 28, 2008

Namibia

April 11, 1996

March 1, 2012

Niger

April 11, 1996

February 22, 2017

Nigeria

April 11, 1996

June 18, 2001

Rwanda

April 11, 1996

February 1, 2007

Sao Tome & Principe

July 9, 1996

-----

Senegal

April 11, 1996

October 25, 2006

Seychelles

July 9, 1996

May 23, 2014

Sierra Leone

April 11, 1996

-----

Somalia

February 23, 2006

-----

South Africa

April 11, 1996

March 27, 1998

Sudan

April 11, 1996

-----

Swaziland

April 11, 1996

July 17, 2000

Togo

April 11, 1996

July 18, 2000

Tunisia

April 11, 1996

October 7, 2009

Uganda

April 11, 1996

-----

United Republic of Tanzania

April 11, 1996

June 19, 1998

Zambia

April 11, 1996

April 6, 1998

Zimbabwe

April 11, 1996

April 6, 1998

 Protocol ratification by nuclear-weapon states: 

Protocol

Subject

States Ratified

Protocol I

Negative security assurances

China, France, Russia, United Kingdom

Protocol II

Ban on nuclear testing in zone

China, France, Russia, United Kingdom

Protocol III*

Jurisdictional responsibility

France

*(open only to France and Spain)

 

Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty

Opened for signature: September 8, 2006
Entered into force: March 21, 2009 

States-Parties

Signed

Ratified

Kazakhstan

September 8, 2006

February 19, 2009

Kyrgyzstan

September 8, 2006

July 27, 2007

Tajikistan

September 8, 2006

January 13, 2009

Turkmenistan

September 8, 2006

January 17, 2009

Uzbekistan

September 8, 2006

May 10, 2007

 Protocol ratification by nuclear-weapon states: 

Protocol

Subject

States Ratified

Protocol I*

Negative security assurances

China, France, Russia, United Kingdom

*United States signed but has not ratified


Notes:

1. The treaty specified that the full zone would not enter into force until it was ratified by all states within the zones. That did not occur until Cuba ratified the treaty in 2002. However, the treaty permitted individual states to waive that provision and declare themselves bound by the treaty, which many did beginning in 1968.

2. Russia is recognized as inheriting the Soviet Union's treaty commitments.

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

Subject Resources:

Fact Sheet Categories:

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) At a Glance

March 2020

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: March 2020

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) is a voluntary, multilateral effort initiated by U.S. President George W. Bush in May 2003 to strengthen the nonproliferation architecture. Specifically, PSI seeks to enhance interdiction capabilities and increase coordination between states to disrupt trade in weapons of mass destruction (WMD), delivery systems, and related materials.

Several factors motivated the Bush administration to create PSI. In the 2002 National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation, the administration recognized the important role that interdicting technologies and materials plays in disrupting proliferation. The strategy concluded that “we must enhance the capabilities of our military, intelligence, technical, and law enforcement communities to prevent the movement of WMD materials, technology, and expertise to hostile states and terrorist organizations.”

The Bush administration also viewed PSI as responding to a gap made evident by the December 2002 So San incident. The So San was a North Korean ship carrying Scud missiles bound for Yemen when it was intercepted by Spanish authorities acting on intelligence provided by the United States. The United States and Spain, however, could not seize the missile parts because there was no legal basis to do so. The So Sanwas released and continued on to Yemen, after Yemenis authorities provided assurances that the country would not transfer the missiles to any third party.

Mission:

PSI aims to disrupt and deter shipments of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, their means of delivery, and the illicit transfer of dual-use goods that could be used to produce such weapons. It also seeks to enhance cooperation between states to promote intelligence and information sharing about suspected shipments of proliferation concern.

Then-Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton indicated in November 2003 that participants would be targeting shipments to non-state actors or states pursing WMDs in violation of international law.

The original PSI member states emphasized that the initiative is “an activity not an organization,” thus it has never had a formal implementing body or secretariat. PSI also does not receive dedicated funding from participating states. An informal 21-member body, known as the Operational Experts Group (OEG), serves a coordinating function and plans exercises and activities.

The list of states that comprise the OEG is available here.

Principles and Participation:

Ten countries—Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom—worked with the United States to shape the initiative and craft its interdiction principles.

In September 2003, the 11 original PSI participants released the Statement of Interdiction Principles, the non-binding document that lays out the mission of PSI and the expectations for membership. Any state can join PSI by endorsing the principles.

The principles call on PSI participants, as well as other countries, to not engage in WMD-related trade with countries of proliferation concern and to permit their own vessels and aircraft to be searched if suspected of transporting such goods.

The principles also include commitments to: 

  • develop measures to interdict transfers of WMDs, and related materials and technologies of proliferation concern,
  • strengthen national legal authorities and frameworks for interdictions,
  • adopt procedures for sharing information with other states about suspected proliferation activities, and
  • support interdiction efforts, including by negotiating ship boarding consent agreements and stopping and searching suspected shipments in territorial waters and airspaces.

As of 2019, 107 states have endorsed the Statement of Principles.

Legal Status: 

PSI does not create new law, but rather relies on existing international law to conduct interdictions in international waters or airspace. For example, a ship can be stopped in international waters if it is not flying a national flag or properly registered.

States can also conduct interdictions when directed to do so by UN Security Council resolutions adopted under Section VII of the UN Charter. For example, after the UN Security Council passed two resolutions on North Korea in 2017, a group of PSI participants issued a press releasein 2018 expressing support for the interdiction provisions in the resolutions. The press release also drew attention to the complimentary actions participating states are encouraged to take that support enforcement of the resolutions.

PSI participants are encouraged to develop their national laws and join international treaties that criminalize WMD related trafficking, such as the 2005 protocol to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation(SUA Convention). The SUA convention’s 2005 protocol prohibits maritime shipment of WMDs and related technologies outside of legitimate trade under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. The protocol allows ships to be boarded, with the consent of the flag state, if they are suspected of carrying illicit cargo, thus strengthening the legal basis for interdictions.

PSI member states also seek to expand their legal authority to interdict shipments by signing bilateral boarding agreements with select countries to secure expedited processes or pre-approval for stopping and searching their ships at sea.

Activities and Meetings:

To build capacity and best practices, participating states can participate in exercises and workshops convened by PSI members. Between 2003-2018 more than 85 workshops and exercises were hosted by PSI member states. Some groups of states have taken the initiative to hold more regular activities designed to counter regional threats, including:

  • The Mediterranean Initiative: During PSI’s high-level political meeting in 2013, France and Germany proposed creating a dedicated channel to focus on challenges in the Mediterranean region. The objectives of the initiative are to discuss risks specific to region, strengthen cooperation amongst PSI and non-PSI stakeholders, and increase capacity. Activities have included seminars to discuss counter-proliferation strategies for the region, table-top exercises, and live exercises that include interdiction best practices.
  • The Asia-Pacific Exercise Rotation: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore and the United States committed to rotate hosting yearly exercises focused on the Asia-Pacific region.

A list of PSI activities from 2003-2018 is available here.

On May 28, 2013, representatives from seventy-two PSI member states held a High Level Political Meeting in Warsaw on the 10th anniversary of the PSI’s formation. Attending states affirmed four joint statements pledging to conduct “more regular and robust” PSI exercises; promote international treaties criminalizing WMD-related trafficking; share expertise and resources to enhance interdiction capabilities; and to expand “the influence of the PSI globally through outreach to new states and the public.”

A mid-level meeting took place in Washington, DC in January 2016 that included representatives from 71 countries. Thomas Countryman, U.S. assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said that participants discussed topics such as trends in proliferation, tactics that networks use to ship sensitive materials and technologies, and options to control proliferation financing. Countryman also said that countries shared expertise and resources that should contribute to building countries’ ability to carry out interdictions.

Successes: 

It is difficult to assess how effective the initiative has been since its inception in 2003. Given that PSI utilizes shared intelligence and interdictions may be conducted based off of multiple streams of information, successes are rarely credited directly to the initiative.

U.S. officials have acknowledged that PSI played an important role in a number of successful interdictions, including seizing centrifuge components that the A.Q. Khan network was shipping to Libya in 2003. In a June 2006 speech, then-Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph claimed that between April 2005 and April 2006 the United States had cooperated with other PSI participants on “roughly two dozen” occasions to prevent transfers of concern. Ulrik Federspiel, Denmark’s ambassador to the United States, asserted at a May 2005 event that “the shipment of missiles has fallen significantly in the lifetime of PSI.”

At a 2008 conference for PSI participants, the United States provided a briefing paper outlining five interdictions where PSI played a significant role.

  • February 2005: A European government denied an export license for coolers U.S. intelligence assessed were intended for Iran’s nuclear program.
  • November 2006: A state stopped the transfer for chromium-nickel steel plates to Iran that could have been used for that country’s ballistic missile program and returned the materials to the country of origin.
  • February 2007: Shared intelligence led authorities in a state to interdict U.S. origin equipment bound for Syria that could have been used for ballistic missile development.
  • April 2007: An Asian country stopped a shipment of sodium perchlorate, which can be used for making solid rocket motors, that was en route to Iran.
  • June 2007: A country denied overflight to a Syrian aircraft making a trip to North Korea based on shared intelligence that the cargo was carrying ballistic missile related components.
 

 

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

Subject Resources:

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Nuclear Nonproliferation